The EU dimension of the IRA decommission

Not surprisingly, the IRA decommission made the headlines all over Europe. For example, Le Monde carried a special dossier with an interview of Adrian Guelke. Back in the European Parliament, it is business as usual, with the expected acrimonial relationship between SF and DUP MEPs to continue. The inability of SF and DUP MEPs to work together on a certain number of issues might have some serious consequences for Northern Ireland.

The absence of working relationship between DUP MEP Jim Allister and SF MEPs will probably continue for a while despite the recent call for ‘engagement’ by SF MEP Mary Lou McDonald. This might have some serious effects on EU funding in Northern Ireland despite that there is urgency for concerted action. In 2007, we are expected to witness some slight changes in the way the EU distribute its funds. Firstly, the EU Peace II programme will come to an end in December 2006 (just for the year 2005-2006 it represents € 852M). Secondly, as NI will be above 85% of the EU 25 GDP per inhabitants, Northern Ireland will not qualify to apply for EU structural funds at the same level as it currently does. Thirdly and for the same reason, Invest NI will not be allowed to fund the NI economy at the level it does at the moment. Fourth, 2007 will see the budget of the European Rural Development Fund increase from £7 billion per year to £13.7 billion per year but with the absence of agreement over the EU budget, the project is currently on hold. The bottom line of all the issues is the disagreement over the EU budget which might be sorted out during the next Presidency (Austria). As part of the jobs of the MEPs is to approve (or disapprove) the budget proposed by the Council, their jobs are therefore crucial. In this key period of pre-budget negotiations, it would be rational for NI MEPs to present common positions and harmonize their lobbying work so as to maximise the chances to get a new round of EU Peace money, securing the capacity for Invest NI to fund the local economy and defending the rural developments funds. After all it was an alliance of interests between John Hume, Ian Paisley and Jim Nicholson which successfully lobbied the EU Commission for a special EU package of Peace Funds. At a time when NI students are engaged in learning about the EU institutions by making mock debates of the Council of the European Union (pdf), the uncoordinated actions of NI MEPs might not be the example to follow.

  • PaddyCanuck

    I think you mean the inability of the DUP to strike up a working relationship on Sinn Fein might have some serious consequences. Sinn Fein would welcome the opportunity to work with the DUP in Europe, and elsewhere.

    The DUP is blocking progress on all fronts:

    No to Devolution
    No to cooperation at council level.
    No to North South Cooperation
    No to working together in Europe.

    It is glaringly obvious where the failure of leadership lies. The DUP is effectively disenfranchising there own voters, and nearly all other voters in the North of Ireland.

  • ulsterman

    Absolute rubbish. We voted for the DUP AND THAT IS THE POLICY WE VOTED FOR. The EEC is nowt but corruption writ large. It has destroyed the fishing and farming industries as the peasants in those Eastern European countries that recently joined will soon learn to their cost.

    The Hume/Paisley/Nicholson stunt was simply SDLP propaganda. These three partys despise each other.

  • bootman

    The pig ignorance of the DUP is of course a threat to continued funding for Ireland, a bad side effect being that the UUP also must avoid contact with SF for fear of looking like the soft-touch of unionism.

  • Thomas

    This is probably a pure coincidence but Carmel Hanna said on Friday:

    “After 2006 Northern Ireland will no longer qualify for the same level of structural funds as its per capita GDP will be above the 75% threshold of the EU average.

    The likely disappearance of structural funds will mean that, for example, Invest Northern Ireland will not be able to offer Northern Ireland companies the same level of grant assistance as it can at present.

    We need our three MEPs working and lobbying together on the issues of Peace III, protecting Invest Northern Ireland`s budget and defending the rural development funds.

    “In fairness, the responsibility for lack of co-operation lies primarily with the DUP and that party`s squalid game playing is having very adverse consequences for Northern Ireland. “

  • Thomas

    …and Gerry Adams affirmed to have brought the subject of the future of the EU Peace fundings with Tony Blair during last Thursday’ meeting:

    “I raised the Peace 3 fund with Mr. Blair and the British Secretary of State Peter Hain on Thursday. I was assured by both that they would move quickly to ensure that the British request was in on time and that this money was acquired from the EU. I subsequently spoke to the Taoiseach and raised this issue with him. Mr. Ahern also undertook to expedite the Irish government’s response to this issue.”