Disappointing lack of progress

Posted By: February 28, 2017

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Tuesday, February 28, 2017

For more than two decades following the IRA and loyalist ceasefires and through the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent years, the EU has offered significant financial support to improve cross-community relations.

This Peace money, as it is known, has funded a large number of initiatives, groups, and projects which are designed to overcome division and help build a more inclusive society.

Despite the vote to leave the EU, this work goes on and makes an important contribution to communities across Northern Ireland.

Peace IV has earmarked more than €80 million for local authorities in The North to use on good relations projects. Councils must form committees made up of elected members and social partners.

However, in a deeply depressing development, it seems that £2.5 million due to be allocated to Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council for children’s services is now at risk because of a failure to appoint a Nationalist councilor.

The partnership committee set up by the council includes eight unionist and two Alliance councilors but none from the SDLP, who have four elected representatives.

The Special EU Programmes Body has written to the council requesting it “reconsider the composition of the elected representation” so that it may “fully reflect the spirit of the objectives of the Peace Programme.”

Finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has also written to the council saying its refusal to include both political traditions in its partnership committee is “out of step with the principles of the Peace Program.”

It is scarcely credible that a local authority could potentially jeopardize funding aimed at improving community relations because it has failed to be fully inclusive.

Both Lisburn and Castlereagh councils have had past difficulties with regard to inclusion and respect for all traditions.

It is disappointing that in 2017 we still see attitudes that give rise for concern.