WATCH - Derry community groups to benefit from IFI £45m funding announcement

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Community groups in Derry will be able to benefit from a pot of money worth up to £45m that will be invested by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) in the North of Ireland over next five years.

The IFI launched its ‘Community Consolidation’ strategy in St. Columb’s Park House in Derry on Wednesday morning.

The strategy was unveiled by IFI Chairman, Dr. Adrian Johnston and the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charles Flanagan TD.

The IFI was established by both the British and Irish governments in 1986.

The IFI provides funding and support to groups in the North and in border counties in the South to promote economic and social advance and groups who wish to encourage dialogue and synergy between unionists and nationalists throughout Ireland.

The ‘Community Consolidation – Peace Consolidation 2016-2020’ strategy will allocate up to £20m towards a significant new youth programme aimed at those who are unable to access or remain in traditional education and training provision.

The five-year plan also will see the scaling-up of two current programmes that have successfully reduced the influence of paramilitaries and assisted communities to start discussions on the removal of physical divisions or so-called ‘Peace Walls’.

A new shared education programme will also provide training to prepare and equip teachers to facilitate sharing within schools.

“During a challenging time for the Peace Process, we have taken new risks to engage in areas where the threat of paramilitary organisations and opposition to the political process had grown,” said IFI Chairman, Dr. Adrian Johnston.

“We have secured important and often radical results that have helped stabilise communities and generated new solutions to sensitive issues. In the course of this work, it has become apparent to the British and Irish governments that the Fund – as a unique independent vehicle – should continue and expand on the work it has been doing over the last number of years.”

Dr Adrian Johnston, (right) Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland pictured with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan TD at the launch of the International Fund for Ireland's 'Community Consolidation' strategy in St. Columb's Park House in Derry on Wednesday. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye

Dr Adrian Johnston, (right) Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland pictured with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan TD at the launch of the International Fund for Ireland's 'Community Consolidation' strategy in St. Columb's Park House in Derry on Wednesday. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye

He added: “The work we started under our current strategy needs to be scaled up to engage more groups that were previously excluded from peace building activities and to address many of the root causes of division. This strategy is designed to assist the British and Irish governments and the Northern Ireland Executive to capitalise on our proven experience and calibre of delivering positive change in areas where others cannot or will not intervene.”

Writing jointly in the new strategy, Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Charlie Flanagan TD, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade endorsed the IFI’s five-year plan

“Working with local community groups, which are determined to embed the peace, the IFI has been able to provide models for dealing with complex and difficult situations. By engaging with those who have not yet or only recently started on the journey of reconciliation, the IFI is ensuring that no part of Northern Ireland is left behind in the search for a stable and shared society.

“The British and Irish governments are keen to see the IFI’s work continue. In endorsing this strategy, we hope that it can also be supported by the international community whose solidarity on the journey to peace in Northern Ireland has been of immense value. That support sends a very potent signal to communities in Northern Ireland and the border counties in the South that the world remains enthusiastically committed to the work of peace-building on the island of Ireland,” said both Ms Villiers and Mr Flanagan.