Ahern urged to secure EU peace fund cash


The Government has been today urged to use its forthcoming presidency of the European Union to secure more funding for community projects promoting peace andreconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Women's Coalition member Monica McWilliams confirmed she had raised at a meeting in Dublin with the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, on Friday the need for acontinuation of the EU's Peace and Reconciliation programme.

The European Union's PEACE funds support social and economic projects in theNorth.

"The PEACE II scheme is due to expire soon," the former South BelfastAssembly member noted.

"There is a lot of good work going on on the ground in both communities inprojects supported by this scheme and they will still need that support.

"With the Irish Government assuming the presidency of the EU from Italysoon, I would like to see the Taoiseach and his officials using their influenceto secure a PEACE III programme."

The North receives four-fifths of the funds, with the remainder goingto projects in counties Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal.

Projects which promote economic development, social integration and crossborder cooperation are supported.

The European Union set aside 530 million Euro for the PEACEfunds between 2000 and 2004.

Government departments in Northern Ireland have faced criticism recently forfailing to distribute all their funds.

Former Stormont Agriculture Minister and SDLP deputy leader Bríd Rodgersurged her old department to speed up the processing of funds.

Her colleague, former South Down Assembly member Eamonn O'Neill also said hewas concerned the departments' delay could result in PEACE II funds being lost.