The European Commission has launched the latest EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (PEACE IV) with a further £190m to reinforce peace and stability in Northern Ireland and the border regions.
The DUP has expressed concern that the programme previously let down terrorist victims and faith-based groups.
Corina Creţu, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said: “The PEACE programme is at the very core of what the European Union is about.
“It is a concrete example of the Union’s long-standing commitment to peace and reconciliation.
“This new programme will help support the consolidation of peace within the region and tackle remaining challenges, through investments in education, shared services and projects that will bring people together.”
Despite the significant progress achieved over the last 25 years, the programme area is still affected by the legacy of division, with levels of segregation that limit the potential for the development of positive relationships between individuals and communities, she said.
The PEACE IV programme will distribute £21m for shared education projects; £40m for peer mentoring actions and local community youth initiatives; £60m for shared services and spaces and £31m to build mutual trust and understanding through sports, arts and culture. The balance will be spent on administering the fund.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds and UUP MEP Jim Nicholson both welcomed the news, stating they had lobbied hard to achieve it.
Mrs Dodds said: “Past programmes have done much to consolidate progress, but there were those, including innocent victims of terrorism and faith-based groups, who justifiably felt that the schemes did not do enough to enable their visions for peace and stability across Northern Ireland.”
She met with local EU bodies last week to press home the case for greater access and fairer allocations of money to these priority groups, she added.
Mr Nicholson said that the programme was launched in 1995 after lobbying by himself, John Hume and Ian Paisley, and will have brought over £1.54bn to Northern Ireland and the border region, including PEACE IV.
“For example the excessive bureaucracy associated with PEACE III was a major issue. It is therefore essential that Northern Ireland officials learn from these experiences and ensure that in PEACE IV there is no unnecessary complexity to cause delays in projects being delivered on the ground, and that community groups receive the assistance and support they need as the projects are rolled out.”