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Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 217. Mr. O'Connor Information on Charlie O'Connor Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  his plans to encourage and promote cross-Border exchanges with communities; his views on the benefits of such initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23317/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen The participants to the Good Friday Agreement formally recognised the value of the work being done by many organisations to develop reconciliation and mutual understanding between and [222] within communities in Northern Ireland and between North and South. Moreover, they saw this work as playing a vital role in consolidating peace and political agreement.

Accordingly, the parties to the Agreement pledged their continuing support for such organisations and agreed to positively examine the scope for enhanced financial assistance for the work of reconciliation. In line with this commitment, in 1999 the Government increased the funding available to this Department's reconciliation fund to £2 million, an eight fold increase on the previous year.

Over the past four years the increased funding – on aggregate, over €10 million – has enabled my Department to make over 300 grants to organisations involved in a wide range of cross-community and cross-border reconciliation and outreach activities. The larger allocations from the reconciliation fund are provided to organisations that operate on an all-island basis – for instance, Co-operation Ireland and the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation. However, many smaller organisations, working on a localised basis across the community interface, or in co-operation with partner bodies in the other part of the island, have also benefited from the fund.

I am pleased that, notwithstanding the more difficult budgetary constraints that now apply, the Government was, as part of the recent Estimates process, broadly able to maintain its financial commitment to the reconciliation fund. The allocation to the appropriate subhead for 2003 is €2.59 million.

Finally, it is worth noting that the crosscommunity and cross-border endeavours assisted by my Department's reconciliation fund complement the good work being assisted in these areas by the larger interventions of the EU Peace 2 Programme and the International Fund for Ireland.

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