The British presidency of the European Union has recommended that €200m be allocated to peace and reconciliation funds for the North, it was claimed today.
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brun said the move by the British government would see the funds spread over 2007 and 2013 and would again be available for projects in the North and border counties of the Republic.
The former Stormont Health Minister said: “The proposals represent a first indication that the British government is prepared to advocate 200 million euros in spending on EU Peace projects.
“Sinn Féin have been lobbying for a Peace III programme for several years. This work intensified following our entry to the European Parliament last year, with a round of meetings at the European Parliament and Commission.
“I and party President Gerry Adams met with the EU Commissioner for Regional Development, Danuta Hubner, in October and I also met with her earlier this year to personally make the case for continued funding for Peace and IFI funding.
“The matter has also been raised formally by Sinn Féin delegations with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.
“Work still remains to be done to ensure a further round of Peace funding is secured, and it is imperative that the EU Council of Ministers ratify this proposal when they meet to finalise the Financial Perspectives later in the month.”
The European Union has allocated almost €1bn to community groups under two Peace and Reconciliation schemes negotiated by Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson and former MEPs, the Reverend Ian Paisley of the DUP and John Hume of the nationalist SDLP.
The funds are awarded to community-based projects in the North and the border counties of the Republic which promote reconciliation, stimulate social and economic renewal, upgrade local facilities and extend learning opportunities.
However with the second tranche of funds due to run out, there have been grim warnings from the community and voluntary sector that if a third scheme is not approved there will be a funding crisis.
Ms de Brun said the proposal made clear that a future Peace III fund must complement and be additional to existing levels of Government expenditure rather than replace it.
Vowing her party would be working to ensure this happens, the Sinn Féin MEP said: “I want to take this opportunity to praise the work of community groups right across the country for ensuring that this issue was highlighted and fought for.
“My hope is that future Peace and International Fund for Ireland funding will enable them to continue to deliver first class peace and reconciliation work in their local communities.”
“Sinn Féin believes that a future Peace III project must be targeted towards tackling discrimination and disadvantage and the promotion of peace and national reconciliation.
“My hope is that such funding will provide a further opportunity to cement the peace process and peace building.”