Address by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin responding to Mr. Pieter Dankert, MEP's contribution.
"Sinn Féin contends that funds from the EU should be targeted in the main at the areas of greatest disadvantage in the Six Counties and in the border counties. Some areas in the Six Counties have unemployment levels as high as seventy or eighty per cent. Funds should be disbursed according to need in order to further the aims of reconstruction, reconciliation and economic regeneration. Those marginalised communities that have suffered most from the conflict - and from decades of institutionalised discrimination and official neglect - must be those who benefit the most from the peace dividend.
"Recognising that the conflict has affected the entire island economy, specific schemes and projects that will help the regeneration of the economy throughout Ireland should also be assisted.
"Some of the worst levels of disadvantage, and deprivation have been suffered by communities living on or adjacent to the border. Funds need to be directed towards these communities and to schemes and projects which enhance cross-border co-operation.
"That any peace dividend package from the EU should include a cultural heritage/ cultural, tourism/ cultural regeneration element.
Funds should not be directed for distribution by bodies that have sought to place obstacles in the path of peoples march towards peace and reconciliation and/ or that have failed or worse refused to promote partnerships between our communities. In particular, Belfast City Council should not recieve the $4m of peace dividend funds it has requested requested until it has proven its commitment to equal respect for all the citezens of Belfast.
New economic strategies for the most deprived communities can best come from within those communitites and must be implemented in consultation with them. In this regard the continued refusal of the British Government to engage with Sinn Féin representatives in the area of economic regeneration is harmful to efforts to harness the peace dividend.
To support more community-oriented projects we advocate the establishment of community development banking. Unlike commercial banks, community development banks have shown themselves to be highly viable institutions for encouraging, identifying and helping both productive and infrastructural projects."