EC intervenes in funding row over ‘IRA memorial’

THE European Commission (EC) has intervened in the row over public money possibly being spent on a republican monument in Crossmaglen.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has previously said that she has no problem with a funding application for public cash being used to renovate what unionists see as an IRA memorial.

First Minister Peter Robinson has spoken out to say it would be “totally unacceptable”.

Yesterday, it was revealed that the EC has written to Stormont’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to remind it of its responsibilities in promoting good relations in the Province.

A letter from the Cabinet of Commissioner Daclan Ciolos about the Crossmaglen monument said the EC “does not consider it appropriate” for the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme (NIRDP) to support operations “which can be reasonably considered divisive or which could cause harm to the reconciliation process in Northern Ireland and to the good relations between the Northern Ireland communities”.

“The European Commission has reminded the managing authority for the Rural Development Programme that it shall, in carrying out its functions, have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief or political opinion,” the letter stated.

The correspondence also confirmed that “the application for funding for the refurbishment of the memorial in Crossmaglen has not been approved to date”.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds said the letter was sent to her after she raised her concerns with the commission.

“Funding of a memorial to the IRA would fall well outside these parameters laid down by the commission and I welcome the fact that the commission have firmly slammed the door on such proposals receiving public funds from DARD,” she said.

“Such memorials are an affront to the victims of terrorism and only serve to cause pain and division in Northern Ireland.”

A spokesman for DARD said it would not make the funding decision.

“Any decision to fund or not to fund this project will be made by the Southern Organisation for Action in Rural Areas (SOAR) Joint Council Committee (JCC) on a recommendation by the Local Action Group,” a spokesman said.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who recently opposed a monument being erected in Portadown to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant, said: “Neither of these monuments – in Crossmaglen or Portadown – have the support of the minority community in their areas.

“These tensions are symbolic of the fact that we have not come to any agreement on how to deal with the past.”