“Of course if I got €6 million a day for five years..”

Following on from the short tour of US financial centres the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers [The businessmen of God? – Ed], along with both Junior ministers and the Agriculture minister, are in Brussels for a two-day junket trip – BBC report here. The Irish Times has an eye-witness account [subs req]

At a reception at the Northern Ireland executive office, the Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness charmed senior EU officials and ambassadors with their humorous “Chuckle brothers” routine while ensuring to ask Europe for as much additional help and support as it could offer.

“We would be grateful for any help or any suggestions you can make to us because we have a strange government in Northern Ireland, nobody in our government was ever in government before . . . So we are all green as far as I’m concerned, of course I’m not green,” joked Mr Paisley, who also praised Irish Ministers for their use of EU funds.

“The South were very wise. They got money they used it very well. They put it into infrastructure. Of course if I got €6 million a day for five years I could do very well too. But the treasury put their big thieving fist on it and we never got it,” he said.

That last paragraph is worth noting in particular. And the contrast in how those funds were used is highlighted in the earlier linked report.

After talks with Ms Hubner the two leaders met Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Mr Barroso told Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness that the North already had a strong sense of hope following the peace process and the setting up of the Executive. “We now need to turn that into opportunities and help Northern Ireland use available European funding as quickly as possible,” he told them.

He said up to now the bulk of EU funding had gone towards peace projects, but now the aim was to look at growth, innovation, research and training to build up the Northern Irish economy.

Too late perhaps..

Northern Ireland has received about 2.5bn euro in regional support from Europe over the past 20 years.

However, Northern Ireland no longer has Objective One status – the term given to regions of the EU which qualify for the most support from Brussels.

As for the purpose of this meeting.. [subs again]

The commission has [already] allocated €1.1 billion in funds to the North for its next budget period 2007 to 2013. No new money is expected to be provided by the EU during this period but the taskforce is expected to put forward ideas next month on how to help Northern Ireland bodies to draw down the available money more speedily and efficiently.

And from this additional BBC report

“It’s not about money any more,” said Jane Morrice, a former MLA for the Women’s Coalition, and now the Northern Ireland representative on the European Economic and Social Committee.

“It’s about co-operation, it’s about trade… making friends and influencing people, and profiting from it, but in a valuable way, that creates business and creates partnerships.”

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  • George

    EU funds made up 3.8 billion of the 57 billion allocated in Ireland’s National Development Plan in the period 2000-2006.

    Of that 3.8 billion euros, 1.43 billion was given over to economic and social infrastructure.

    This works out at 1.1 million euros a day, not 6 million as Paisley seems to think.

    Also, North Antrim farmers got far more EU funding than the peace process. NI farmers get over 250 million pounds a year in funding from CAP alone.

    Over 40,000 benefited last year.

  • kensei

    Not to mention that the subvention from the UK Exchequer is around 5 billion Sterling a year, which is substantially more than 6 million Euros a day.

  • smcgiff

    George, maybe I’m wrong but I thought Paisley was referring to money they wanted/expected to get from G Browne and not money the Republic received from the EU.

  • George

    smcgiff,
    but why would he use euros instead of sterling? Or is that an error in the article?

  • smcgiff

    Not sure, George. Maybe he only said six million and the € was tagged on. No sure, it was just the impression I got.

  • Dewi

    Sounds like the absense of matching funds for Objective 1 grants?

  • pith

    Was that Paisley’s first time in Brussels.

  • George

    Dewi,
    For the 2000-2006 timeframe Ireland (Republic of) divided itself into 3 regions to ensure a continuation of objective 1 status for the Border, Midland, West Region and transitional status for the South Western Region. The East is where most wealth is concentrated so it missed out.

    If the 6 million figure is true then we would have been given 10.97 billion euros.

    The reality is that the Structural and Cohesion Funds only totalled €3.8 billion, with CAP and the Rural Development Plan adding another 2.2 billion.

    We are still back at the 1.43 billion on infrastructure.

  • George

    Sorry, Ireland divided into two regions not three.

  • Dewi

    George – sorry – I was referring to the
    “But the treasury put their big thieving fist on it and we never got it” quote – which I presume refers to the UK government treatment of Objective 1 spend in the North.