Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Sectarianism the greatest threat to Northern Ireland peace, warns fund chair

Northern Ireland is in danger of being pulled back into the dark days of violence if more is not done to address sectarianism, it was claimed today.

The murders of recent months should warn people that the issue of segregation has not been adequately dealt with, chair of the International Fund for Ireland Denis Rooney added.

Mr Rooney called for a renewed focus on peace building as he announced more than £6 million funding for community projects in the region.

"This year we have witnessed the shocking and frightening return of violence to the streets of Northern Ireland," he said.

"The murders of the last few months are painful reminders of the terror which blighted our communities for decades.

"They act as a warning that despite the tremendous progress which has been achieved in recent years, we could very easily be pulled back down into the dark days of civil unrest and violence.

"In particular, the apparent willingness of some of our young people to embrace violence indicates that we have more to do to overcome sectarianism and segregation."

Among the initiatives set to benefit from the latest round of IFI funding is a three-year community relations and training programme for marginalised 16-17 year olds.

A project to bring together rival Rangers and Celtic supporters in Northern Ireland is also being supported.

Interface youth schemes in Belfast and a series of cross-border partnership will be funded as well.

"Today we are announcing a package of funding, much of which aims to engage the most marginalised of our young people," added Mr Rooney.

"The International Fund for Ireland is committed to 'breaking new ground' and creating new, sustainable interventions which will help young people throughout the island of Ireland to learn, work and live together in a shared future with mutual respect.

"As we enter into the last few years of the Fund's work, the Board will not be seeking any further international contributions after the end of 2010, we will not slow the pace of our work nor our commitment to our basic objectives and our desire to tackle sectarianism and segregation and create a legacy of hope for all the people of Ireland."

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