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£75m boost for Northern Ireland's young people unveiled

Published 22/01/2016

People walking across the 235-metre Peace Bridge across the River Foyle
People walking across the 235-metre Peace Bridge across the River Foyle

About £75 million has been earmarked to improve the lives of children and young people in Northern Ireland as part of peace dividends from Europe.

The latest round of funding, which will run for the next seven years, also includes £13m to help victims and survivors deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

The vast majority of the money is from the European Union, with the UK and Irish exchequers making up just 15% of the £400m package, but it is potentially the last under the special Peace programme.

Officials have set targets of £40m of the total to be spent on eight new projects in interface areas to help bring divided communities together following the example set by the Foyle Peace Bridge in Derry and the Skainos Centre in east Belfast.

Finance Minister Mervyn Storey said: "The programmes will leave a lasting legacy with a strong focus on our young people."

It is also aiming to spend £26m in 350 schools to physically bring students together to learn aspects of the curriculum.

Elsewhere, £46m is being set aside for health and social care including helping 4,000 people with disabilities who are socially isolated, £35m for sustainable transport projects including border greenways and electric vehicles and £53m for research and innovation.

Seventeen local peace and reconciliation schemes overseen by councils are also being targeted with a £26m fund.

The money is coming from the EU's Peace IV and Interreg programmes and a key plank of the strategy is protecting young people through skills development for anyone up to aged 24.

It is hoped it can be used to support youths who fall out of education and training programmes and are at risk of anti-social behaviour or lives of crime and violence.

The entire grant package will be used to fund projects in Northern Ireland, the border region and parts of western Scotland.

The Republic's Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the money will support of a range of exciting cross-border initiatives.

"I would like to pay tribute to the many individuals, groups and organisations who are responsible for making the programmes work on the ground. Without them we would not be celebrating the success of the programmes today," he said.

Gina McIntyre, chief executive of the Special EU Programmes Body which oversees the funding programmes, said: "A whole new generation of young people have grown up since the first Peace Programme was created. As such, Peace IV will have a strong youth focus with approximately 100 million euro worth of funding being allocated to children through shared education and youth development initiatives."

European Commission representative Desa Srsen, said: " The Commission is looking forward to seeing the first projects approved and contributing to improving the life of the citizens and businesses living and working in the border regions."

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