Deepening divisions across Northern Ireland and the southern border counties require urgent support at a critical time in the Peace Process, according to the International Fund for Ireland.
The call to strengthen partnerships and boost community leadership is key to rebuilding trust, which has been broken by ongoing uncertainty.
This insight comes on the back of the IFI’s latest funding allocation, which will invest £1,133,026/€1,359,631 into nine projects, which are working with the most polarised communities who have not felt the benefits of peace and reconciliation.
The funding has been allocated to a range of initiatives across the Peace Impact Programme (PIP) and Personal Youth Development Programme (PYDP). These groups face many challenges and are working hard to remove the influence of paramilitaries and offer alternative paths of engagement for opportunities and positive life choices.
Paddy Harte, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland says: “External challenges such as the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit, the lack of a functioning Executive and the rise of hardline dissidents have created a considerable void, which is having a very negative impact upon communities.
“Understandably, we can see that these challenges have resulted in mistrust and alienation for some. It comes at a critical time in the Peace Process where we want to see communities flourish instead of returning to darker times of the past.
“The Fund is the only organisation that is engaging with some of the most disengaged in society. We are transforming lives and going where others aren’t in order to give those communities the tools to rebuild trust and prevent the escalation of tensions and polarisation.
“Despite a clear lack of political leadership across the board, community leaders must be commended as they have risen to the challenge during these uncertain times. They are unsung heroes but without collaboration with other key organisations/government, they simply cannot deliver positive outcomes on the scale that is required.
“Our programmes are making important inroads to help resolve legacy issues, encourage dialogue around difficult conversations as well as tackling deprivation, employment skills, mental health issues, drugs and alcohol abuse and paramilitary activity.”
“It is vital that this momentum continues so that communities can prosper, become self-sufficient and offer a better life for generations to come.”
The funding packages announced are geographically spread across Northern Ireland and the southern border counties. The Fund’s PIP programme is designed to deliver real and positive community transformation through sensitive interventions in communities that have not previously, or have only partially, participated in peace building and reconciliation activities. Over 48,500 people across 45 projects have engaged with this programme in the last year.
The PYDP programme is unlike any other youth programme that currently exists. It focuses on the needs of young people who are at risk of isolation, polarisation and /or recruitment into organisations opposed to the Peace Process. Typically, participants will have come from challenging backgrounds, been in the criminal justice system, suffered from poor mental health, have addiction issues or been affected by homelessness. Thanks to this unique approach, 431 young people have progressed to further education and training, 153 have secured jobs and over 1600 accreditations have been achieved.
The Chairman took the opportunity to thank the international donors to the Fund – the European Union and the Governments of the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – for their support.
The latest funding package is as follows:
Peace Impact Programme:
£142,365/€170,838 to Black Mountain Shared Space Project
£145,079/€174,095 to West Bann Development
£137,438/€164,926 to Tullacmongan Resource Centre
£142,662/€171,194 to North Leitrim Glens Development Company
Personal Youth Development Programme:
£127,999/€153,599 to Galbally Youth and Community Association
£122,929/€147,515 to Glasgowbury
£163,438/€196,126 to Roe Valley Residents Association
£68,774/€82,529 to Downstrands Family Resource Centre
£82,342/€98,810 to Inishowen Development Partnership