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O'Hagan - Speculation over motives behind Peace II shambles

23 July, 2003

Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Upper Bann representative Dr Dara O'Hagan has expressed concern over the motives that led to the allocation of Peace II European money being described in a recent Westminster report as a shambles‚.

Dr O'Hagan said:

"There have now been three key reports on the administration and allocation of European money through the EU's Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation.

"The administration of Peace II was a shambles‚ and the conclusions of the recent Westminster select committee report highlighted that processing applications frequently exceeded 100 working days. This is unacceptable and a key factor behind the threat of having to return over £55 million of available money to Europe.

"This is money that should be destined to tackling the objective need that exists as a result of decades of conflict and systematic institutionalised discrimination against the Catholic community.

"The report by consultants Haase and Pratschke into Peace I estimated that the Catholic Community‚s share of programmes funding was 56% compared with the Protestants community's share of 44%. The report found that this was a result of higher levels of disadvantage in Catholic areas.

"The Joseph Rowntree report into Peace highlighted the fact that the key changes between Peace I and Peace II were highly contested and conducted behind closed doors‚.

"One of my key concerns is that there was a politically motivated decision making process within the Department of the First and Deputy First Minister, headed by a prominent unionist economist, that deliberately sought to undermine the work of the Peace I programme by making the application process around Peace II obstructive. With the aim of reducing the availability of resources that could effectively target objective need.

"The result has been to discriminate against the community and voluntary sector, and all areas were there exists a very real and urgent objective need. The report into Peace I highlights the fact that this is a need that exists in significantly higher levels within the Catholic community."ENDS

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