Parties in Northern Ireland welcome £1bn peace-building funding allocation

Parties in Northern Ireland welcome £1bn peace-building funding allocation

PARTIES in Northern Ireland have welcomed funding of just under £1billion which has been allocated to the region from the EU’s Peaceplus programme.

Announced yesterday in Belfast, the scheme, which comes under the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), is designed to “build reconciliation and greater prosperity across Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attended the event alongside Ireland’s Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, European Commission Vice President Maros Šefčovič and Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

Almost 75 per cent of the funding, some £730 million, has come from the British government.

The remaining amount is made up of contributions from the Northern Ireland Executive, the European Commission and the Irish government.

Speaking at the launch of the funding allocation, which was held at Newforge Sports Centre, Mr Heaton-Harris said: “Although we have a positive story to tell in-terms of delivering on the promise of the Good Friday Agreement over the past 25 years, we also acknowledge that there is more to be done to realise other aspects of the Agreement’s ambition for a society that is reconciled with the past and able to look to the future.

“That is why we continue to support the work of the SEUPB, following the UK’s exit from the European Union.

“We are providing more than £730 million to the programme (almost 75% of the budget), which includes match funding contributions from the Northern Ireland Executive together with contributions from the European Commission and Ireland of over £250 million.

"This brings the total up to almost £1 billion, a huge investment from across the international stage towards peace and prosperity as we mark the anniversary of the Agreement and look forward to the next 25 years.”

Welcoming the funding, Sinn Féin’s Midlands-Northwest MEP Chris MacManus said: “The EU’s Peace programmes have made a real and substantive difference to life for people and communities affected by conflict and I am delighted that this new programme is now formally being launched.

“I have personal experience of the peace programmes and have seen the great work it can do,” he added.

“I urge all groups and communities in our region to investigate the funding opportunities and to maximise the potential of Peace Plus.”

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons also welcomed the announcement, but pointed out it was largely supported by British funding.

“The Peace Plus announcement is a significant boost to Northern Ireland, with £730m of the £858m programme coming from the United Kingdom Government,” he stated.

“Unfortunately there are some in Northern Ireland who have attempted to portray the programme as ‘EU money’ despite 75% of it coming from the UK,” he added.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the funding allocation was a “very positive thing” for Northern Ireland.