SF: Peace funding programme 'widening divides'

Sinn Féin tonight criticised a programme designed to distribute around £134m for peace building in the North for entrenching sectarian differences.

Sinn Féin tonight criticised a programme designed to distribute around £134m for peace building in the North for entrenching sectarian differences.

MEP Bairbre de Brun said separate funding of unionist and nationalist community groups would encourage competition rather than encourage people to work together.

The Peace III programme is being organised by the Special European Union Programmes Body and will help organisations in local communities.

Ms de Brun said: “Unfortunately the SEUPB appears intent on dramatically narrowing the scope and potential of the programme.

“What has happened up until now is that the peace programme had both communities becoming more empowered and working together.

“Under the umbrella of the British government’s ‘A Shared Future’ policy and the Community Relations Council we are going back to the tried and tested formula of making communities powerless.”

She added a hostile atmosphere could be created in which separate applications by community groups would spark disputes and have people “looking at each other” rather than working together.

The money was secured from the European Commission following sustained lobbying from local politicians. Earlier programmes helped establish grassroots groups and sponsored specific programmes aimed at addressing the causes of conflict.

Unionist MEP Jim Allister has claimed Protestant groups were under-represented when the money was handed out last time.

Ms De Brun claimed: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the SEUPB is working to a narrow political agenda, promoting a definition of peace-building that panders to specific (unionist) political interests.

“In doing so they are actively undermining the great potential that exists within Peace III and are acting contrary to the intended purpose of the peace programme as designed by the European Union.”

She added she would be raising the matter with European Commissioner Danuta Huebner and Northern Ireland minister David Hanson in the coming weeks.

More in this section