Belfast Telegraph

Legacy group hit by funding cuts

A voluntary group dealing with the toxic legacy of Northern Ireland violence is to shed jobs and cut back work because of funding problems .

Healing Through Remembering (HTR) has organised workshops, international study visits and exhibitions. Its board members include IRA Shankill bomb victim Alan McBride.

The end of PEACE 3 funding from the European Union means two staff out of four will be laid off and a smaller team will focus on more specific projects.

A statement from HTR said: "The work of the organisation in helping society to deal with the past is perhaps more vital than ever before for the future of both the political process and the peace process itself."

The Joseph Rowntree Trust has stepped in with some funding to allow the smaller staff team to work part-time.

HTR added: "With the end of the current PEACE 3 funding for the Voyager Project it will be necessary for HTR to cut some staff posts, reduce other staff posts and focus on specific projects."

The organisation was established in 2001 as part of efforts to create a truth finding process for dealing with the past conflict.

It has held days of reflection, story telling and archiving processes, and in the course of its work has engaged with more than 2,500 people.

The PEACE funding now ending was specifically to acknowledge and deal with the past. The next round of grants from the EU is focused more on young people.

Earlier this year five-party political talks on dealing with the past chaired by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass ended without agreement.

Meanwhile, separately, the Arts Council which funds 37 organisations has asked them to plan for 5% budget cuts worth thousands of pounds due to Stormont public spending reductions following the June Monitoring Round.

An Arts Council spokeswoman said: "As the reality is at best a cut of 4.4% to budgets this year, the Arts Council is asking those clients affected (37), to plan for cuts of 5%.

"They have been asked to outline what impact this will have on their programmes, staffing, services, audiences and participants.

"In September the board of the Arts Council will agree how it will finally implement these cuts after considering both the evidence from the sector and the savings the Arts Council itself proposes to make organisationally."

The cuts to the arts budget are in line with those passed on by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), that is, a 2.1% immediate cut and a proposed further 2.3% cut in October to in-year budgets.

It follows failure to reach agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP on welfare reform.

The spokeswoman added: " It is important to state that the Arts Council will work to protect our core clients as much as possible by mitigating the impact of these cuts in any way we can.

"We will continue to make the case to DCAL and to the Northern Ireland Government of the value of the arts to the economy and to society.

"It is not just about arts programming, as important as that is, but it is about the very valuable education and outreach work that these organisations undertake in order to help meet the Northern Ireland Executive's own Programme for Government priorities."

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