Given the recent comments by Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland Peter Hain, regarding the economic prospects for NI, when he stated “The Northern Ireland economy, though it is doing better than ever in its history, is not sustainable in the long-term.”, there has been a lot of attention on what could be proposed.. and Peter Hain indicated the direction he intends to take. All of which, perhaps, makes the response from Peter Hain and Irish Minister Dermot Ahern, to the announcement of a change in focus for the International Fund for Ireland, and the investment it has available – some £25million this year according to its Chairman – somewhat surprising.From the joint statement by Peter Hain and Dermot Ahern –
The launch of the five year strategy, entitled Sharing this Space, brings to an end much of the Fund’s work in economic development, in favour of reconciliation, cross-community and cross-border links.
It coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Fund’s foundation by the Irish and British Governments in 1986 to channel international funding to marginalised communities. The US, EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all contributed to the Fund’s work in Northern Ireland and Southern border counties.
Peter Hain said: “This is an appropriate change in direction at this time given the greatly improved economic situation on both sides of the border. In these circumstances the Fund’s decision to focus on reconciliation and integration themes is welcome and timely.”
Dermot Ahern added: “This is a bold move by the Fund and proof of its ability to adapt to the new reality on the ground.
“The fact is that the needs of the North and border counties have changed substantially and for the better since 1986 – not least in economic terms. Reconciliation and cross-border links are the new priority and I’m pleased to see that the Fund is addressing these through this strategy.”