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Department of Social Development make a shambles of Peace Money distribution

7 August, 2003

Sinn Féin President and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has accused the Department of Social Development of 'deliberately seeking to undermine the Targeting Social Need criteria in the distribution of European Peace money' and of 'presiding over a shambles which will see up to £55 million returned to Europe, instead of being spent here in seriously deprived communities.'

The Sinn Féin MP revealed that the Party has asked the Equality commission to investigate the Fund and that it will be raised by Bairbre de Brún, Dara O'Hagan, and Chrissie McAuley when they meet British Minister John Spellar tomorrow.

Mr. Adams was speaking at an event in the Springvale Training Centre today at 12 noon where some of the EU Peace II funds are being distributed.

Mr Adams said:

"I welcome the funding coming to the Clonard and Springfield Road communities. It will make a real difference to these communities.

While Clonard has benefited from this European Measure I am greatly concerned as to how this fund has been managed and distributed by the Department of Social Development.

The fund of £12 million was to target the most disadvantaged communities and to redress the legacy of conflict.

While some communities have benefited from the fund. Sinn Fein believes that the design of the fund discriminated against the nationalist community and that the administration by the Department has been a shambles. (Note to editor: this was the term used by the House of Commons select committee reporting Peace II)

The Department developed a very narrow definition of the conflict. It ignores the role of the State and fails to identify those areas which have suffered most from the conflict.

The criteria for funding was reduced to focus in on areas with interfaces and at the cost of areas of higher social disadvantage.

We are entitled to ask where is the funding for the Upper Springfield, Twinbrook, Poleglass, Andersonstown and large sections of the Falls.

We have yet to get a clear understanding of how the measure was designed and the money distributed. What we do know is that nationalist make up between 70%- 80% of the most disadvantaged communities yet received only 56% of this fund.

The decisions made by the Department subverts Targeting Social Need and undermines the Equality Agenda.

We have asked the Equality Commission to use their powers to investigate this fund.

The problems with the fund have not ended with the design.

The distribution of moneys has been delayed for over a year by the Department.

A sizeable portion of the money would have to be returned to Europe if the Belfast Strategic Partnership Board and West Belfast Partnership Board had not intervened to ensure the money reached the Clonard community.

At present the misadministration of the Peace funds by Government Agencies could see as much as £55 million returned to Europe.

When measure 2.11 was designed it was to be a pilot for the new Neighbourhood Renewal Policy of the Department. This measure has failed to target those communities most in need. This mistake cannot be repeated by the Department.

TSN and Equality are central to developing communities and tackling the causes and legacy of conflict. The support offered to communities must be commensurate to the scale of the problem.

It is nonsense to deal with any section of West Belfast in isolation from the rest of the area. Neighbour Renewal must cover the whole of West Belfast to complement the work of the West Belfast Taskforce and the newly established Integrated Development Fund.

A delegation from Sinn Féin, headed by Bairbre de Brún will raise these matters at a meeting with John Spellar tomorrow.

I raise these criticisms of this fund not to take away from what Clonard as a community have achieved or diminish their needs.

The achievements of Clonard community and the vital projects which the fund supports must be replicated throughout West Belfast and in the most disadvantaged communities across the six counties." Ends

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