Community relations projects across Northern Ireland are celebrating the news that they will receive a total of more than £7million in European Union (EU) funding through the Community Relations Council for Northern Ireland (CRC) over the next three years.
The important cash dividend, allocated to promote "Reconciliation for Sustainable Peace", is part of the EU package "Peace II", and is a vital and welcome injection for community relations here, said CRC chief executive Duncan Morrow at a celebration event to mark the allocations today (16th December).
"More than 40 groups and projects have already been selected to receive over £6million from this key funding package and it is a great boost for their good work. A further £1million will also be allocated in the new year. CRC is privileged to have been allowed to play its part in Peace II, and looks forward to working in partnership with the various bodies that receive money through it", he said.
"Whilst we acknowledge that there is still much to be done in promoting community relations, we are confident that through this funding, the hoped for re-instatement of the political institutions will be underpinned by continued developments in genuine reconciliation. This will help bring people together to create a more peaceful and inclusive society for everyone", Mr Morrow continued.
The groups that have already been selected to benefit from the package came together today (16th December) in the Ormeau Baths Gallery Belfast to celebrate the commencement of funding. The director of CRC's European Programme, Jim Dennison, said that the occasion marked a step forward for community relations work in Northern Ireland and was part of a process of helping create greater cooperation and collaboration between organisations and with government.
"This event was a celebration of a funding package that will ensure progress. It has also allowed organisations to come together and to engage with representatives from the European Programme, CRC, the Local Strategy Partnerships and from government. This allows groups to share experiences and to lobby others with regard to changing policy priorities", he said.
The organisations allocated funding range from interface groups, to religious, arts, sports and youth groups (see notes to editor).
The European Programme of the Community Relations Council is responsible for Measure 2:1 (Reconciliation for Sustainable Peace) of the PEACE II Programme and has a budget of £7million, exclusive of a research budget allocation (c£1 million).
The Measure aims to provide opportunities for civil society to promote reconciliation and peace-building efforts and to encourage communities in areas which had previously experienced violence or the consequences of violence and polarisation to develop strategies and activities which promote reconciliation as a means to sustaining peace.