Is a new tranche of peace money on the cards for NI?
- 27 June 2011
- From the section Northern Ireland
Sunday's edition of Inside Politics morphed from a discussion of the Executive's community relations in general to the latest developments concerning a new tranche of European money for NI and the border counties - so-called Peace IV.
Courtesy of my colleague Keiron Tourish, we ran a clip of the European Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn indicating his support for a continuation of "a significant amount" of European funding after the current Peace III money runs out in 2013.
At the time of the last European elections, in 2009, it was generally assumed that Peace III - worth 333m euros - would be the last special hand-out Northern Ireland and the Irish border counties would get from Brussels.
However in recent months there's been some intensive lobbying, and Commissioner Hahn's comments indicate this has borne fruit.
The commissioner, though, put in a caveat that "the British government is not in favour of spending a lot of money for European projects".
After opening the new Peace Bridge across the Foyle, the Commissioner attended a meeting on the prospects for Peace IV with the taoiseach and the first and deputy first ministers.
Sinn Fein's junior minister, Martina Anderson, was also at the meeting and she told Inside Politics the ball was now in the court of the UK government.
She called on David Cameron to make a statement of support for Peace IV.
These comments puzzled the Northern Ireland Office, who pointed out that they have never been reticent about a new tranche of European Peace Money.
It therefore seems fair to assume that Commissioner Hahn's comments were a reflection on the wider debate about the European budget.
The UK government has taken the lead in arguing that Europe, just like its member states, must cut back on its spending.
London has opposed a proposed 5% increase in the EU's next budget, arguing it should be kept in line with the rate of inflation at around 3%.
So Peace IV could become embroiled in the wider EU budget negotiations which are likely to drag on right up until 2013, when Peace III is due to run out.
If there is more EU money, that would be very important to the many voluntary groups around Northern Ireland who depend on the grants.
It's much too early to say how much a future programme might be worth.
But it seems fair to assume that, given the general atmosphere of austerity, Peace IV would be less generous than Peace III and is more likely to fund revenue for community groups than big capital projects like the Foyle Peace Bridge.