Europe gives £13m boost to fight social problems and improve social cohesion
More than £13m is to be made available to cross-community projects in Northern Ireland and the border area of the Republic in a bid to tackle social problems.
The cash - allocated by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) under the EU's PEACE IV programme - is to be spent over the next five years by 13 projects, ranging from anti-racism initiatives to housing associations and the Red Cross.
The money will fund initiatives that will encourage greater levels of cross-community cohesion and contact, on a cross-border basis.
Projects supported will pay particular attention to minority and other groups who have traditionally been marginalised by society, in a bid to help overcome the divisions of the past.
Outlining the importance of the funding, SEUPB spokeswoman Gina McIntyre said: "Each of these projects will have a regional-wide impact in terms of building positive relations between people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
"Collectively they have the potential to make a real and positive difference to the lives of tens of thousands of people and their families.
"Through these projects the EU is underlining its commitment to reinforcing peace and stability across the region."
Approximately £1m worth of funding has been offered to Youth Action NI to create and deliver the Youth Network for Peace project. Designed for young people aged 15-25 years, the initiative plans to bring together 12 cross-border youth organisations and focus on the development of good relations and peace-building skills for an estimated 10,000 participants.
Approximately €1m worth of funding has also been offered to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) for an initiative called Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries to help address the discrimination faced by EU and non-EU migrants living across the region.
It will undertake detailed research into issues which prevent the migrant population from accessing the labour market and consequently fully integrating into society.
Match-funding for the projects has been provided by the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland and the Executive Office in Northern Ireland.
The PEACE IV Programme has a value of €270m and aims to address the economic and social problems which result from the existence of borders.