£9m in peace funding to boost community relations in Belfast
Almost £9m of peace funding will help build better relations between Belfast's divided communities, the city's Lord Mayor has said.
The money from the European Union's Peace IV programme will be used for projects to improve the lives of children and young people as well as building shared spaces.
Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister stressed the need to promote respect. "Issues of trust, prejudice and intolerance are still all too common for many of us," she said.
"This funding will help us in transforming our capital to a city of shared space where all communities have a sense of belonging.
"We want to enhance good relations, respect for diversity, sensitivity to the values, beliefs, customs and traditions of others."
In total, £8.79m has been allocated from the European Union's Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Republic's Department of Rural and Community Development.
It will be distributed by Belfast City Council.
A significant sum - £1.7m - will be spent on projects that specifically target young people.
These include the use of technology to challenge attitudes at after-schools clubs, Easter and summer camps as well as money to deliver exchange visits, environmental clean-ups and civic leadership programmes.
A further £5m has been earmarked for improving community relations at a west Belfast interface, while £2m will go towards arts and heritage projects that explore peace, culture and diversity.
Gina McIntyre, chief executive of the SEUPB, said: "Previous peace funding facilitated some truly inspirational projects that have made a real and meaningful difference.
"Despite significant progress, however, there remains a need to improve cross-community relations, and further integrate divided communities.
"The funding that has been provided under Peace IV will help to achieve this and promote positive relations, creating a community where people can live and socialise together, free from prejudice and intolerance."
The Peace IV Programme has a value of €270m and aims to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border region.