EU funding – each to their own…

DUP MEP Jim Allister has said the “big question hanging over [European] Peace funding is whether it is “distributed on an equitable basis to the two communities”. The Special European Union Programmes Body says it is, and PricewaterhouseCoopers have apparently concluded in their earlier report that Protestant applications and deprived areas were the most successful when it came to getting funding.Not much has been said about the PWC report on the distribution of PEACE II funding, as it wasn’t published by the The Special European Union Programmes Body. It should, however, be available under the Freedom of Information Act.

nicva said in October:

PricewaterhouseCoopers carried out the review over five days in January of this year but the DFP regards the report as internal, to inform the Peace II extension, and has not published it; neither has the SEUPB

You can read the report, requested by the Department of Finance and Personnel, here, although nicva added that “[A]lthough PWC’s review was held in January, it was not referred to in a report issued later in the year by the SEUPB, Community Uptake Analysis of Peace II”.

The SEUPB-commissioned report, Community Uptake Analysis of PEACE II, which can be read here, concludes that:

The Catholic share of approved funding (excluding Technical Assistance) under PEACE II is estimated at 51.4 per cent of the total, compared with a Protestant share of 48.6 per cent. In comparison, Catholics make up 45.2 per cent of Northern Ireland’s population, whilst Protestants represent 54.8 per cent. The Catholic share of approved funding under PEACE I was estimated at 55.8 per cent, compared with a Protestant share of 44.2 per cent. At the time of PEACE I, Catholics made up 43.2 per cent of Northern Ireland’s population, whilst Protestants represented 56.8 per cent.

The community uptake shares for PEACE II thus represent a shift of 4.4 percentage points towards the Protestant community in comparison with its share of uptake under the PEACE I Programme. This shift occurred within the context of an increase of 2 percentage points in the Catholic share of population between 1991 and 2001.

According to the Department of Finance and Personell, the same authors said about PEACE I funding:

A report on the allocation of funding in Northern Ireland under the European Union’s Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (“PEACE I”) estimates the Catholic community’s share of Programme funding at 56 per cent and the Protestant community’s share at 44 per cent. The report’s authors, consultants Trutz Haase and Jonathan Pratschke, see the larger Catholic share as being in part due to relatively higher levels of disadvantage in Catholic areas coupled with the Programme’s explicit targeting social need objective. However, the authors also conclude that people in predominantly Catholic areas were more likely to apply for Programme funding.

The SEUPB-commissioned report on PEACE II, carried out by HELM, states:

The higher estimated Catholic share of funding under the PEACE II Programme, in comparison with the Protestant
share, may be explained, at least in part, by the correlation between disadvantage and religious community profile


the greater tendency for people living in areas with a Catholic majority to apply for funding.

So, according to the SEUPB’s own reports, between PEACE I and II, there has been a swing towards Protestant areas in terms of funding.

The PEACE II review by HELM stated:

The conclusion drawn is that the greater estimated uptake of funding by the Catholic community reflects both the higher levels of deprivation in Catholic areas and the greater tendency of people living in these areas to apply for funding. Most importantly, there is no residual direct effect from the religious composition of an area to the amount of funding received, thus clearly showing that there is no bias in the distribution of funds. This is in line with the findings of the study undertaken at the conclusion of the PEACE I Programme.

And Pat Colgan, Chief Executive of SEUPB, said in his foreword to the report:

Overall, it would appear that the PEACE II Programme has achieved greater recognition from within the Protestant community, when compared with PEACE I, and that Programme funding is more evenly distributed in this respect.

Moreover the report shows that the degree of targeting seems to be consistent with the Programme’s objective of
targeting social need whilst achieving a broad coverage throughout Northern Ireland.

Colgan’s statement that “a broad coverage” is an objective of PEACE II funding is interesting, as it suggests there is a main aim other than targeting social need. Perhaps this is why nicva seized on aspects of the PWC report, which nicva claimed disprove[s] the claim that Protestants are less likely than Catholics to get Union Peace II funding to build up community infrastructure. A report obtained exclusively by SCOPE shows that well over half the money spent under this heading went to people in Protestant areas.

So if the funding is being allocated at least fairly – or possibly even skewed towards the Protestant population, as PWC hints – what is the DUP’s real complaint? If deprived Protestant areas are getting their fair share or better, then what are the grounds for arguing otherwise?

The PWC report noted that there was a “[G]reater perceived need in Protestant areas because of weaker
community infrastructure – CFNI pro-active in promoting measure in predominantly Protestant areas

The ‘measure’ is ‘Measure 2.7 ‘Developing Weak Community Infrastructure’’. In the Nature of Activities section, the report concluded:

• Projects from Catholic areas tend to be cross-community

• Projects from Protestant areas tend to be single identity

• Support for community based activity has facilitated the development of a positive community spirit within areas of weak community infrastructure which has resulted in improved intra community relations

• The support of partnership organisations has facilitated intra sectoral discussion, co-operation and joint action in addressing community tensions

• Developing confidence and skills within single identity Protestant areas enables community participation as a pre cursor to cross community engagement

‘Mixed’ areas made up a large part of rejected applications (35%) for PEACE II funding. Peace II director Sean Henry said that the programme has had “a real impact on both Catholic and Protestant areas”, but ‘Mixed areas’ don’t seem to merit as much consideration in SEUPB. The debate is on ‘Catholic’ vs ‘Protestant’ funding. One of PEACE II’s aims might be to promote “a more peaceful and stable society”, but this shouldn’t mean an over-allocation of funding to single identity schemes.

But With the DUP in the ascendent and so actively involved in the applicaiton process, I get the feeling there will be an increase in funding for single identity schemes, which are seen as a ‘pre cursor’ to actually sharing resources.

Jim Allister said:

I know that the level of applications from the unionist community is substantially up from previously. It’s a matter of seeing whether that translates into funding.

In the News Letter, Pat Colgan said PEACE was making “a substantial positive difference to the lives of thousands of people in Northern Ireland and the border region

“That said, however, we recognise that in recent months external factors have taken a turn for the worse and created a difficult scenario that threatens to undermine some of the good work.”

The facilitators of the peace process – British, Irish, EU and USA – use different ways with which to create greater political consensus in Northern Ireland, and funding is a big carrot and stick rolled into one. Party allowances (or lack of), community grants/withdrawals, fundraising bans/approvals… not political bribes, just incentives.

Annoucing an extra £97m of EU funding in the summer, Professor Danuta Hubner, the EU commissioner for regional policy, said: “In face of the current difficulties in the peace process, this decision demonstrates the continued solidarity and support of the European Union towards permanent peace in the region.”

Putting this all together, it might be concluded that the wind is very much blowing in the DUP’s direction and I’d speculate that a chunk of the funding that extended PEACE II by two years in June had already been earmarked for spending in areas the DUP has highlighted, such as farming. PEACE II director Sean Henry said at the time: “We have set aside some money for community groups who have not previously applied for funding and for those who perhaps don’t have the skills to fill in application forms

To me, it looks likely that those playing political catch-up are likely to benefit from the DUP creating possibilities in the wider peace process, and that could in turn reflect well on the DUP. You certainly can’t blame the DUP for doing what it said it would do, and there will be positive results. However, it was the same party that created the non-existent fears about unfair funding in the first place.

If there had been greater awareness of the uses that EU money could be put to within the Protestant community a few years ago, more wouldn’t have lost out in the initial round of funding. Many of those Protestant groups now applying for money deserve funding, but there are also precedents in the peace process for rewarding parties that eventually remove political obstacles of their own creation.

However, EU PEACE funding is decreasing in real terms over time, or as Jim Dougal, former head of the European Commission office in Belfast and London, put it Europe has other priorities”. The DUP – which got in late – needs to deliver quickly, while there’s still funding worth fighting for in Brussels.

The danger is that if political expediency gets in the way of channelling peace and reconciliation funding into areas where it is needed more urgently or could be better used, then Jim Allister could find himself knocking on an open door when it comes to securing a future slice for his community of the proposed £134m PEACE III funding allocated to in Northern Ireland between 2007 and 2013.

With ‘Mixed areas’ getting the lowest approval rates for PEACE funding, Catholic projects more cross-community than Protestant ones, and Protestants just getting off the starting block in some ways, will the EU end up funding two communities that end up stronger in themselves, but with weaker links between the two? Should ‘parity’ between two divided communities be at the expense of integration? Should PEACE money really just provide another competition between unionist and nationalist politicians to grab as much as they can for their own section of the community?

Could EU funding for peace and reconciliation actually end up keeping segregation in place longer than it needs to be?

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