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Cash cut hits Stormont drive against paramilitaries


Paul Givan

Paul Givan

Paul Givan

AN almost two-thirds cut in funding is set to hit the Stormont project aimed at helping local areas shake off the grip of paramilitaries.

The Communities in Transition initiative is set to receive £12m over the next three years - the same amount it was given for its first year to 15 months.

And the Stormont team set up to help tackle the daily scourge of paramilitary involvement has told an Assembly committee it is still awaiting clarity over its second tranche of funding.

Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon (below) said she was concerned over the Communities in Transition cut "because it is a reduction in funding of almost two-thirds".

She said: "Communities in Transition started two to three years behind everyone else, so there needs to be some recognition given to that.

"I note it is planned that the project will get £12m over a three-year period, whereas it got £12m over a 12 to 15-month period previously."

She was speaking at a meeting of the committee which scrutinises the Department of Justice.

Adele Brown, director of the tackling paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime team from the department, said: "Paramilitary coercion and harm is still a daily feature in some communities in Northern Ireland. That is a matter of considerable regret for those of us in the programme (and) a strong reason to redouble our efforts."

Paramilitary activity had continued despite the impact of Covid-19 on communities "and we and others are very concerned about criminals exploiting the hardships and vulnerabilities of others, whether those be mental health issues, addiction, debt, trauma, family breakdown, violence or abuse".

She said the aim, if funding is secured, is to break down "what is a really large, complex problem into smaller, more manageable issues that can be dealt with at a local level."

Mid-Ulster MLA Mrs Dillon said the third report of the paramilitary watchdog the Independent Reporting Commission had recommended a transition process for groups "as distinct from individual members making that transition".

Ms Brown said the focus of the original Executive action plan had been on individual, personal and community transition.

"Individual transition has been very much about trying to identify vulnerabilities that make people susceptible to paramilitary criminality and coercion and control," she explained.

And she also added the fact that the unit will receive just one year funding rather than three years as expected would impact on what it will be able to deliver.

Committee chairperson Paul Givan said: "We will want to pick this up once there is a bit more clarity around the funding."

Communities in Transition was set up to work in eight specific areas of the country with a history of paramilitary activity and control under the then Fresh Start agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein in November 2012.

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