Martina Anderson MEP attends Cross-Border PEACE 1V discussions
Martina Anderson MEP at a recent breakfast meeting in the European Parliament of the Cross-border Networking Group discussed the impact of PEACE programmes on the Peace Process in Ireland. During the meeting she stressed the contribution of PEACE funding in recent years and the importance of continued funding in the shape of a PEACE IV programme for the funding period of 2014-2020.
Ms Anderson pointed out the benefits this funding had brought, in particular to the border counties of Ireland, while emphasising the challenges that still remain.
The Sinn Féin MEP said:
"There has been much progress brought about as a result of previous PEACE Programmes in building a peaceful and shared society in Ireland. But as recent events in Belfast and elsewhere have demonstrated, a lot of legacy issues remain to be resolved. Continued progress could depend on securing future PEACE programme funding.
Ms Anderson highlighted the crucial role played by political former prisoners in constructing and sustaining the Irish Peace Process and how the contribution of PEACE funding in supporting ex-prisoner groups enabled them to build relationships across the political and religious divide.
She pointed out that:
"Approximately 25,000 people from the nationalist community alone were imprisoned during the conflict. Without their commitment to the Peace Process it would have been impossible to create the momentum that has sustained our progress. However, prisoners still face barriers to accessing basic requirements of normal family life. Many still can not acquire home insurance, are debarred from entering particular countries and disqualified from certain areas of employment.
“Recent calls for legislation banning former-prisoners from positions as Special Ministerial Advisors are regressive. It exposes the inability of some within political unionism – aided and abetted by political opportunists in the SDLP - to recognise the significance and importance of the peace building efforts of former prisoners. The short-sightedness of this legislation will be used by a minority of people who use violence to oppose the peace process as evidence of political intransigence.
Ms Anderson highlighting the cross-community and reconciliation aspects of the PEACE Programmes continued:
"Many of the challenges presented in our society emerging from conflict are shared by both nationalist and unionist communities, particularly the working class. The role of women in society, youth unemployment and support for the elderly are also issues that need to be dealt with coherently across all sectors. PEACE funding has provided essential finance to projects which address these issues on a cross-community basis
Emphasising the importance of the cross-border elements of PEACE funding and of understanding the conflict in the right context Martina Anderson concluded;
"It would be a mistake to interpret the conflict as an internal 6 county dispute between warring tribes. Partition – political and social – created the divisions that created and perpetuated the conditions for conflict. As a Derry woman I am acutely aware of the effects of Partition on border counties which were cut off from their natural hinterlands. This has been socially and economically detrimental to both parts of Ireland but particularly along the border corridor. Peace funding plays a crucial part in bridging this historical divide" CRÍOCH