Lack of border in Ireland ‘a plus’ says reconciliation fund chief

Paddy Harte, Chairman of the Board of the International Fund for Ireland at Belfast's Peace WallsPaddy Harte, Chairman of the Board of the International Fund for Ireland at Belfast's Peace Walls
Paddy Harte, Chairman of the Board of the International Fund for Ireland at Belfast's Peace Walls
The head of a multi-millionpound reconciliation group has hailed the lack of any land border on the island of Ireland as a result of Brexit – something which has only been achieved by putting up a de facto border in the Irish Sea.

Paddy Harte, chairman of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), made the comments as part of a wide-ranging interview with the Press Association.

The IFI was set up jointly by the London and Dublin governments in 1986.

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It basically funnels a large pot of cash towards projects which, in the words of the US government (one of its main funders), “promote economic and social progress and encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between nationalists and


Since it was set up it has handed out roughly £750m for such causes.

In his interview, Mr Harte said of Brexit: “It’s important to acknowledge that the border on the island looks like it is not going to be there, and that is a plus, but there is a bit to go before we know how it will affect communities we work with.”

Unionists have become increasingly dismayed in recent years at what they see as a weakening of the Union thanks to a Brexit deal which bars the UK government from putting up any infrastructure on its own territory around the Irish border.

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Meanwhile, infrastructure has been built at NI ports to stop and examine goods entering the Province from the UK mainland.

Mr Harte also went on to predict further discussion of a border poll this year.

“2021 is the centenary year, we have big commemorations, 50 years since internment... the NI Census is coming out, and discussions that that triggers in terms of border polls etc,” he said.

“And we still have all of the tensions in certain areas around identity, paramilitarism, flags, bonfires, they are still all there.

“2021 is going to be a particularly challenging year.”

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Looking back over 2020, he said a lot of peace building work undertaken by the groups which the IFI funds had to be postponed.

But he said the pandemic also brought people together.

He said: “The communities responded outstandingly. The first thing we noticed was the orange and green disappeared, people were now dealing with something of common concern.”

Read more on Brexit from this reporter:

Click here: Major UK retailer Dunelm halts home deliveries to NI sparking Brexit speculation

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