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NI Executive £2m peace charm offensive for areas riven by organised crime ... but fears paramilitaries will muscle in on cash

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Loyalist disorder in April

Loyalist disorder in April

Loyalist disorder in April

The executive Office is to spend almost £2m of taxpayers’ cash encouraging better relations between the police and public in areas ravaged by paramilitaries.

But there are growing fears that groups with links to terror gangs could end up benefiting from the spend.

Tenders for the Community Safety and Policing Programme (CSPP), worth a total of £1.9m, ended last month. The successful applicants have yet to be announced.

The seven areas in which the scheme will run are Carrickfergus/Larne, east Belfast, Lurgan, north Belfast, north Down, Shankill and west Belfast.

It is part of the government’s wider £23m Communities in Transition (CIT) project set up to end paramilitarism, which has so far failed to provide any worthwhile results and was unable to stop recent loyalist anti-protocol rioting across Northern Ireland.

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DOUBTS: Stewart Dickson

DOUBTS: Stewart Dickson

DOUBTS: Stewart Dickson

A Civil Service source told Sunday Life that there are major concerns over which organisations will benefit from the £1.9m CSPP cash injection. “The public will not tolerate these contracts being awarded to groups with links to active paramilitaries,” said the insider.

“The tactic of paying these same people to ensure peace on the streets has failed time and time again. There needs to be a new approach, these guys just don’t deliver.”

East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, whose office has been attacked by paramilitaries, also expressed concern that “money being spent by the Executive Office often ends up elsewhere, too close to those criminals exerting coercive control over areas and parts of the community.”

He added: “The Executive Office has difficult questions to answer over how much longer do they keep giving resources to these people, who seem incapable of moving on from their other activities, instead of allocating funds to legitimate groups to help root out the poison of paramilitarism.”

According to the Executive Office the core purpose of CSPP is to build “trust and understanding” between communities and the response services, with “the aim of encouraging meaningful relationships so they can work better together to improve community safety”.

Another key factor is for communities to “take a proactive role in improving community safety”.

Successful applicants have been told that any work they undertake must be linked to “issues which have arisen as a result of living in a community with high levels of paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime.”

The initial contract will run for one year until July 2022, with options for an extension until March 2024 dependent on performance.

Last month Sunday Life revealed how a £168,000 Executive Office scheme to end money-lending in loyalist areas, the cash from which came from the £23m CIT fund, was axed due to a lack of interest.


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