Thursday, October 14, 2021

By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

A £1 billion (€1.1 billion) peace funding package for Northern Ireland has been approved by the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC).

The region’s Minister for Finance, Conor Murphy, had previously warned that the funding could be at risk because of a DUP boycott of north-south meetings in an act of protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But Stormont politicians were able to take part in a NSMC meeting on Thursday after DUP First Minister Paul Givan agreed to the agenda, in line with his party’s position which allows for meetings on health issues.

Mr Murphy welcomed the approval of the Peace Plus Programme, which is administered by the north-south implementation body the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB)

He said: “The £1 billion Peace Plus Programme will provide much-needed funding across a broad range of projects in the North and the Border region.

“This will include our health sector, with significant investment in supporting healthy and inclusive communities, which is particularly important in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today’s approval marks a key milestone in the Peace Plus Programme which will help deliver economic regeneration, investment in young people, the environment and further support peace and reconciliation initiatives.

Northern Ireland centenary
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson announced last month that his party would not take part in north-south meetings, excluding those on health issues (Peter Morrison/PA)

“SEUPB can now seek formal approval from the European Commission with a view to the Peace Plus Programme opening for calls in early 2022.”

Last month, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson announced that his party would disengage with the NSMC meetings as part of their campaign of opposition to the protocol.

Earlier this week, High Court judge Mr Justice Scoffield ruled that the DUP boycott was unlawful.

Thursday’s meeting of the NMSC was the first to take place since the court ruling.

The DUP said its position on attending other meetings of the NMSC had not changed.

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