Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: MEPs' peace money vow for Northern Ireland welcome

Editor's Viewpoint

Nowhere has the goodwill towards both parts of this island been better demonstrated than in the European Parliament through its funding to cement the peace process. This has been ongoing since 1989 when the ending of violence was still very uncertain.

And it seems that goodwill remains even in the throes of Brexit with the Parliament voting by a huge majority to channel hundreds of millions of pounds into peace and cross-community and cross-border work post-Brexit, whatever the outcome of those negotiations.

That is a fine gesture from the EU which has recognised the huge contribution that funding has made to rebuilding shattered economies and broken trust particularly in interface and border communities which suffered most during the Troubles.

While victims' groups can feel aggrieved that they have not prospered from this funding as much as community organisations even they cannot deny the contribution made by it in stabilising the province.

The Irish border has been a thorn in the Brexit negotiations with claims that a hard border could mean a return to violence and counter-claims that the issue has been overplayed. It was welcome therefore that an official from the Parliament's regional development committee made it clear that the EU was not arguing that if the money - some £470m - was not forthcoming it could lead to a resumption of violence.

He stressed that was not the case but did point out the benefits of the funding and the hopes that the EU, Britain and the Irish Government would continue to operate the two EU programmes.

Many, particularly in the farming and business communities, wish there was similar clarity on the likely outcomes post-Brexit. It is clear that the conflict between die hard Brexiters in the Tory party and other members hoping for a soft, nuanced exit is becoming more and more bitter. The die-hards seem to want to leave the EU come what may and certainly have failed to put forward any coherent policies for an exit strategy while decrying everyone else's attempts at negotiations.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and while it has to accept the overall UK desire to leave the concern is that it could become collateral damage in a Tory Party civil war. We need to be protected as much as possible and the European Parliament's intervention is a reassuring one.

Belfast Telegraph


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