The International Fund for Ireland and Peace & Reconciliation has this week started a major lobbying effort in Brussels to retain EU financial assistance for the peace process in Ireland beyond 2013.

Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP stated today that “the Irish and British governments must now agree on a joint strategy so as to retain EU financial assistance for the peace process in Ireland post 2013. The incidents of violence in East Belfast and the recent murder of Catholic police officer Ronan Kerr demonstrate the importance of continued support for projects, which support economic and social development on both sides of the border.”

“The European Union has contributed a total of EUR 1.3 billion to the PEACE programme since 1994 and a total of EUR 349 million to the International Fund for Ireland since 1989. The IFI programme has created well in excess of 40,000 direct jobs and 16,000 indirect jobs, bringing employment to an economically disadvantaged region. I believe that the European Union and the other international partners should give every consideration to prolonging this worthwhile and effective programme. The EU must take the initiative as the largest donor and it must not wait for the outcome of the difficult budgetary negotiations currently ongoing in the US Congress. However, it is striking from our discussions in the European Parliament and the European Commission that a clear signal of support for the continuation of funding for the IFI is needed from both the Irish and British Governments.”

“The PEACE III programme is currently worth EUR 333 million for the period 2007 to 2013. From our discussions with the European Commission, it appears that there is broad support for the establishment of a PEACE IV programme within the next Regulation on structural funds, which is expected to be published in September this year. However, it is vital to maintain the same level of funding post 2013. According to the Commission, the inclusion of a separate budget line in the Regulation would facilitate this process.”

The high level delegation from Ireland included the Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, Denis Rooney and the Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body, Pat Colgan. On the 21 June, the delegation addressed the Regional Development Committee in the European Parliament, facilitated by the North and West MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher. The delegation also held meetings with key advisors to the Regional Development Commissioner, Johannes Hahn and the Irish Commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.