The Irish Government could do more to help release a total of €120 million in cross-Border funding that is stalled in the system, the Northern Executive's Minister for Finance has intimated.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Féin appeared last night before an Oireachtas committee to discuss the implications of Brexit.
Mr Ó Muilleoir said there were real doubts about a shortfall of a potential €1.1 billion in future funding for the North if Britain makes good on its referendum to leave the EU.
He said he had received reassurances from British chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond about funding already earmarked until November, but that the situation was uncertain after that.
More immediately, said Mr Ó Muilleoir, there was a problem with groups and agencies receiving access to the €120 million already allotted.
Speaking to the Dáil’s Belfast Agreement implementation committee, in which Northern MPs have speaking rights, Mr Ó Muilleoir said there were 17 separate letters of offer for projects in Border counties such as
, Louth, Fermanagh and
He said the Northern Executive and other bodies there had stepped in to expedite the process, but that urgency had not been reflected elsewhere.
“Their efforts need to be matched by the Irish Government, by the British government and by the EU Commission,” he said. “All three of those institutions should be committed to releasing that €120 million as soon as possible.”
When questioned on this by Declan Breathnach and Brendan Smith of Fianna Fáil and by Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP, Mr Ó Muilleoir said he was not ascribing any blame.
When Mr Breathnach said that Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe had informed him he was doing all he could to ensure this money was released, Mr Ó Muilleoir said of the Northern Executive: "We have done our work. We can do no more."
Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan addressed the committee, chaired by Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion. He said the Irish Government's reconciliation fund, which has spent €46 million to date on more than 2,000 projects, would continue even in the event of Brexit.
Mr Flanagan also said London had given him assurances that any changes to the UK Human Rights Act after its exit from the EU “would be consistent with its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement”.
There were concerns expressed by several speakers about the reintroduction of a Border, with several members criticising the lack of direction from the British government.