EU grant to reconcile Protestants
The Orange Order has received a grant of almost £900,000 from the European Union to help address the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Communities at sectarian interfaces and border areas which suffered disproportionately during the Troubles will benefit, the organisation said. The Stepping Towards Reconciliation in Positive Engagement (Stripe) project will be based in Lurgan, Co Armagh.
Drew Nelson, chairman of the Orange Community Network, said: "The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland believes there is an imbalance of weak community infrastructure, low confidence and low levels of participation within the Protestant community, particularly in interface and border areas in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
"Grand Lodge also believes the Protestant community in interface and border areas had suffered disproportionately during the Troubles."
The £884,022 was received from the Special EU Programmes Body. Dr Jonathan Mattison will be the project manager, one of seven staff financed until December 2014.
UDR soldier Joe Gaston lost a leg when the IRA blew up his tractor at his farm in Glarryford, near Ballymena in Co Antrim, in 1977. He has had an artificial limb since then but said he is now barely able to walk because of problems with his other leg.
"I was very dissatisfied with the artificial limb - the quality of it was not of the same standard that you could see now, but they are very expensive," he said.
He paid £1,000 for it then and he had to travel to Basingstoke in England for repairs, making it quite expensive. He was a dairy farmer and his job was badly affected by his injury.
William McKeown, grand treasurer of the Lodge, said the funding represented an opportunity to enhance confidence within the Protestant community.
"It is envisaged that this will equip the Protestant community with the ability to engage with the wider community and to encourage it to re-engage as equal partners as Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland move forward."