Belfast Telegraph

Anti-paramilitary body 'won't be taken for a financial ride'

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

A new group dedicated to wiping out the scourge of paramilitarism won't be "double played" over money, its leader has vowed.

The consortium, headed by Co-operation Ireland chief executive Peter Sheridan, is looking for "ambitious and innovative ideas" that will persuade Troubles-era gangsters to turn their back on criminality.

But the former senior police officer insisted there will be no slush fund for pet projects.

He said: "We are not going to be double played.

"We are not going to allow ourselves, as a consortium, to be taken along for a ride by some groups or organisations that think somehow they will get funding out of this and they can do nefarious activities at night-time.

"This is public money and we are not going to allow ourselves to be double played around this."

The consortium, which was set up in October, is a key element of a strategy included in the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement. Some £50m has been ring-fenced for programmes over five years.

Although a final figure has yet to be determined by the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme Board, it is anticipated the transitioning communities budget could be £12m.

Part of the work will mean talking to paramilitary crime gangs as well as community groups, Churches and others. Mr Sheridan added: "We will engage with people in paramilitary organisations. But people who want to transition.

"We are not engaging with people in paramilitary organisations who want to remain connected to organised crime, gangsterism and criminality.

"We will engage with people who genuinely want to move on."

The eight areas identified through academic research include the New Lodge and Greater Ardoyne in north Belfast; lower Falls, Twinbrook, Poleglass, Upper Springfield, Turf Lodge and Ballymurphy in the west of the city; the Shankill (upper and lower) including Woodvale in west Belfast; The Mount and Ballymacarrett in east Belfast; Brandywell and Creggan in Londonderry; Drumgask and Kilwilkie in Lurgan; Larne, including Antiville and Kilwaughter, as well as parts of Carrickfergus; plus Clandeboye and Conlig, including Kilcooley in Bangor.

Belfast Telegraph

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