EU funding refusal a 'slap in face' for victims - DUP
The British government was today accused of delivering a slap in the face to the victims of Northern Ireland's violence by refusing to allow them special access to European Union funds.
Democratic Unionist MEP Jim Allister condemned Northern Ireland Office minister Ian Pearson after he received a letter informing him that victims would not be given a special claim to the next tranche of EU Peace and Reconciliation Funds.
"Since the publication of the draft proposals for the Extension of Peace II, I have been pressing for it to include a measure exclusively for victims," Mr Allister said.
"I met the Regional Commissioner on the issue and received a sympathetic hearing, but during the past week the NIO Minister with responsibility, Ian Pearson, wrote to me rejecting the proposal. "I regard this as a scandalous slap in the face for victims."
The European Union's Peace programme was first approved in 1994 as a response to positive developments in the Northern Ireland peace process.
A total of €500 million (approximately £350 million) was allocated in the first programme which ran from 1995 to 1999 to support projects in Northern Ireland and six border counties of the Irish Republic (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth).
With 80 per cent of the funding going to Northern Ireland, some 13,000 projects which encouraged job creation, economic development, cross-border co-operation, urban and rural regeneration and social cohesion, benefited.
The EU allocated €531 million (approximately £370 million) under the Peace II programme which runs from 2000 to 2004. Mr Allister welcomed an interim report by the Northern Ireland Select Committee at Westminster which called last Friday for more state support for victims groups.