The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) has allocated £2,356,535/€2,639,319 to further support community projects across Northern Ireland and the southern border counties at a critical time in peace building work.
Ulidia Training in Ballymoney is one of 12 successful projects in the latest funding round and it will receive £246,877 for a period of two years.
The IFI was set up by the British and Irish governments as an independent organisation in 1986. It delivers a range of peace and reconciliation initiatives across Northern Ireland and the southern border counties.
Funding has been allocated to projects within the IFI’s Peace Impact Programme (PIP) and Personal Youth Development Programme (PYDP).
The PIP is designed to deliver positive transformation in communities that have not previously, or have only partially, participated in peace building and reconciliation activities. Meanwhile the PYDP focuses on the needs of young people coming from extremely challenging backgrounds who are at risk of isolation, polarisation and /or paramilitary recruitment.
Ulidia Training works with both sides of the community to help diffuse tensions that could arise and escalate to violence. They are committed to a Restorative Justice Practice model in the region that uses engagement and other methods to deal with difficult community issues.
Funded groups currently face many obstacles including dealing with the long-term effects of the pandemic, some are also working hard to remove the influence of paramilitaries as well as offering alternative paths to create more opportunities and positive life choices.
Paddy Harte, IFI Chairman says: “Peace and reconciliation work is experiencing a particularly challenging period. The long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic are just beginning and social impact issues such as mental health, employment and financial struggles are affecting many.
“Genuine fears presenting themselves in this post pandemic society alongside the ongoing fallout from Brexit are creating uncertainty.
“This year we have had significant centenaries, anniversaries, increased calls for a Border Poll and dissatisfaction from some on how the Good Friday Agreement hasn’t delivered for all communities here.
“Issues such as culture, identity, legacy, flags and bonfires continue to be used by some to cause contention across our society, but those of us in positions of leadership and influence must bring communities to a point where they can work together to find tangible solutions.
“In recent weeks, annual July celebrations have passed off peacefully. We are extremely grateful to those, including many of our projects, who have worked tirelessly to diffuse tensions and encourage people to replace violence with dialogue.
“The IFI is enabling projects to have difficult and sensitive discussions with discontented communities who are feeling very isolated, but we will continue to facilitate positive conversations that offer alternative options for progress.
“We have worked for 35 years, building relationships, and giving marginalised communities hope and positive opportunities that build resilience. We also have much to celebrate in what we achieved to date on our peace building journey.
“In the last year alone, we have helped divert many young people away from risk taking behaviour, including paramilitary recruitment. Our projects have supported 3500 of those young people to make better choices enabling them to give back to society positively.
“The IFI will continue to encourage community development and leadership giving each generation the tools and opportunities they need to prosper and grow.”
The Chairman also 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.
Funding allocations are as follows :