Belfast Telegraph

Community schemes 'must be saved'

Funding for cross-community initiatives in Northern Ireland must not fall victim to cutbacks, the head of an award-winning charity has warned.

Efforts to tackle the underlying causes of sectarianism and division need continued support despite the economic climate, as much work still needs to be done, according to the director of the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust, Michael Arlow.

The charity set up in the aftermath of the Enniskillen bombing has just landed a prestigious UK-wide award for its work with young people.

Despite that success, Mr Arlow stressed that even its future is not assured in the current uncertain economic times.

"It is going to be a struggle to continue to get funding into the future," he said. "We are in an extremely challenging environment and we do need help to keep going."

The charity, which beat 1,000 other entries to lift the Guardian Charity Award, works with children and young people across Northern Ireland and operates on an annual budget of £250,000.

It is currently supported by a variety of funding streams, including the International Fund for Ireland, administered through Stormont's Department of Education; the Community Relations Council and the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Arlow said work was ongoing to secure ongoing support but warned the future was by no means clear. "If organisations like ours do close down, it's not just the work that will stop but pools of expertise and commitment will vanish. It's important to keep those pools," he said.

The trust was established in 1989, inspired by the words of the late Senator Gordon Wilson following the loss of his daughter, Marie, in the 1987 IRA bomb on Remembrance Sunday in Enniskillen.

For more than 20 years it has engaged young people in a variety of cross-community projects with the goal of building a shared, fair and diverse society.

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