European support for Northern Ireland’s peace process should continue for the longer term, a member of a high-powered delegation from Brussels said.
Funding for a proposed cross-border bridge that would link counties Down and Louth has been withdrawn and the building of a reconciliation centre on the site of the former Maze prison which was to be another flagship project has stalled because of political disagreement.
But the EU has delivered money for scores of community groups as well as large projects like the construction of a peace bridge in Londonderry linking the mainly unionist Waterside with the largely nationalist Cityside, and the Skainos community centre in East Belfast.
Jane Morrice, a former member of the Women’s Coalition and now member of an organisation which advises EU politicians, is visiting Stormont with a delegation this week.
She said: “It is very clear that peace building is a process and that the EU has been supporting the peace process for 20 years and should definitely continue for the longer term.
“I would be hopeful that at the end of the European Peace 4 funding (2020) that much more progress would have been made but wherever we are by then we would certainly be calling on the EU to keep supporting the most important elements of the process.”
The latest EU peace programme starting this year will distribute money for the next seven years.
The president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), Henri Malosse from Corsica, will join vice-president Ms Morrice as part of a 20-person delegation visiting Northern Ireland to mark 20 years of EU support for the peace process.
Elections to the European Parliament are scheduled for later this year and a new European Commission will be established.
Ms Morrice added: “We need to make sure the newcomers in high office are in tune with the needs of Northern Ireland.
“We in the EESC want to make that happen by ensuring that the voice of business, trade unions and the voluntary sector is heard at the highest level possible in the new administrations.”
The visitors will attend events at Stormont and tour Crumlin Road Gaol and the peace walls.