13 September 2017, Belfast Telegraph
Northern Ireland peace projects could continue to receive EU funding after Brexit, with money funnelled through the Republic of Ireland, a committee of Irish parliamentarians proposed.
Programmes to prevent inter-community conflict, promote reconciliation, cross-border cooperation and the development of infrastructure and jobs should be protected amid heightened political and economic instability, legislators added.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which will have a land border with the EU after Brexit and faces particular challenges due to its links with the Republic.
The report said: “One solution could include funds continuing to flow to Northern Ireland on a ‘lean-to’ basis post-Brexit via Ireland’s EU membership and through the North-South Ministerial Council. This option should be explored further under the Government’s planning.”
An Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on Wednesday launched a report considering the impact of Brexit on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which largely ended decades of violence.
It said division between the communities was still very evident, with low levels of trust and high levels of residential and social segregation.
It added: “Within this context there still remains a real need for the region to address a number of key issues in order to support the overall peace process.
“These include more efforts to develop and deepen reconciliation between divided communities, increase tolerance and respect to reduce the levels of sectarianism and racism, promote increased community cohesion and address the legacy of the past.”
Victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord took a High Court case over concerns European peace money could be discontinued following Brexit.
His son Raymond McCord Jnr, 22, was a former RAF radar operator who was killed by Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in north Belfast in 1997.
Mr McCord said unionist communities would have no problem with peace funding for Northern Ireland coming through the Republic after the divorce in March 2019.
He said: “You go to hospital and, God forbid, you take a youngster.
“He has had an operation and needs blood, you are not asking where it comes from.
“It is for the benefit of that child or your family isn’t it?
“It is not a case that you are taking a bribe or you are easily caught, it is anything but it.”
Gina McIntyre, chief executive of the Special EU Programmes Body which distributes funds from the EU to Northern Ireland, said there was great support for continuation of its work programmes.
She added: “We should not be complacent about how they are to be achieved, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we need those programmes.”
The Peace 4 programme is a cross-border initiative funded through the European Union designed to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland.
It also contributes to the promotion of economic and social stability by improving cohesion between communities.
Europe has contributed approximately 229 million euro (3206 million).
The UK government has previously pledged to maintain peace projects in Northern Ireland after EU withdrawal.