A senior DUP member has called on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to “clarify her position in relation to the continuation of peace funding in Northern Ireland.”
Speaking after party leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds received a letter from the Prime Minister reiterating the government’s “unequivocal commitment” to continue the funding through until 2027, MEP Diane Dodds said the Secretary of State should clarify comments she made earlier this month which suggested that if Parliament rejected Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement it could call into question the legal basis for the delivery of such funds.
Mrs Bradley was widely criticised after casting doubt on whether £300m of government funding for peacebuilding in Northern Ireland could be delivered if there is a no-deal Brexit.
“The Prime Minister’s letter makes it very clear that she not only remains personally committed to the continuation of peace funding, but that it is also a policy of the whole government,” Mrs Dodds said.
“Karen Bradley’s comments casting doubt on such funding were an obvious attempt to scaremonger in advance of the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. They were particularly irresponsible given the nature of the groups who receive this funding. She should now clarify her comments and spell out clearly whether she agrees with the Prime Minister’s position made on behalf of the government.
“It was ironic that Karen Bradley’s comments came nearly exactly a year after Jean Claude Juncker confirmed that peace funds would be included in the next seven-year budget plan for the EU. When the EU was not raising any issues, it was particularly disappointing that groups in Northern Ireland would see such a threat raised by our Secretary of State.
“I would hope she can now quickly ensure that her position is clarified and apologise for the confusion and worry she caused,” the DUP representative added.
Responding to Mrs Dodds’ comments, an NIO spokesperson said: “The UK Government is clear. We are strongly committed to the PEACE funding.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson has said it is “hypocritical of the DUP to talk about concerns over peace funding”, claiming that Mrs Dodds voted against funding extensions in July 2016.
She also criticised the party’s support for Brexit, arguing that it is “continuing to pursue delusional policies that will hit the north hardest”.
Responding, a DUP spokesperson said: “Diane Dodds utterly rejects this nonsensical claim. She did not vote against peace funds but rather an amendment which wrongly framed the UK’s democratic decision to leave the EU. This Sinn Fein claim is mischievous at best and downright misleading at worst. Mrs Dodds actually voted for the Vaughan Report in September which recommended a further peace programme.”