Plans for new reconciliation strategy announced
Plans for a new 64 million euro (£45 million) reconciliation strategy has been announced by peace-building organisation the International Fund for Ireland.
The IFI intends to use the money to intensify its work in Northern Ireland and in the border counties of the Republic of Ireland.
The Community Consolidation - Peace Consolidation 2016-2020 strategy will allocate up to 28 million euro (£20 million) towards a new youth initiative aimed at those unable to access or remain in traditional education and training settings.
It will also see the scaling-up of two on-going endeavours to reduce the influence of paramilitaries and assist communities to start discussions on the removal of physical divisions between them - the so-called Peace Walls.
Teachers will be trained in a new shared education programme as well.
The IFI was set up as an independent organisation by the British and Irish governments almost 30 years ago.
Since its inception, the Fund has committed more than 895 million euro (£713 million) to a wide variety of projects in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties.
Key priorities have been developing and funding initiatives that tackle segregation and promote integration to build a lasting peace.
The IFI said it was working with both governments to secure a funding structure of up to 64 million euro for the five-year period of the new strategy.
Dr Adrian Johnston, chairman of the IFI, said: "During a challenging time for the Peace Process, we have taken new risks to engage in areas where the threat of paramilitary organisations and opposition to the political process had grown.
"We have secured important and often radical results that have helped stabilise communities and generated new solutions to sensitive issues. In the course of this work, it has become apparent to the British and Irish governments that the Fund - as a unique independent vehicle - should continue and expand on the work it has been doing over the last number of years.
"The first phase of our Peace Walls Programme successfully and carefully built confidence and relationships within and between communities. While community appetite for the programme has grown, there has been a critical lack of funding and resources for the wider economic and social regeneration required to make physical change sustainable.
"The work we started under our current strategy needs to be scaled up to engage more groups that were previously excluded from peace-building activities and to address many of the root causes of division. This strategy is designed to assist the British and Irish governments and the Northern Ireland Executive to capitalise on our proven experience and calibre of delivering positive change in areas where others cannot or will not intervene."
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan have endorsed the plan.
In a joint statement they said: "Working with local community groups, which are determined to embed the peace, the IFI has been able to provide models for dealing with complex and difficult situations. By engaging with those who have not yet or only recently started on the journey of reconciliation, the IFI is ensuring that no part of Northern Ireland is left behind in the search for a stable and shared society.
"The British and Irish Governments are keen to see the IFI's work continue. In endorsing this strategy, we hope that it can also be supported by the international community whose solidarity on the journey to peace in Northern Ireland has been of immense value.
"That support sends a very potent signal to communities in Northern Ireland and the border counties in the South that the world remains enthusiastically committed to the work of peace-building on the island of Ireland."