£1 million funding to support vulnerable communities in NI
MORE than £1 million funding is to be provided to support vulnerable communities in Northern Ireland that have "not felt the benefits of the peace process".
The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) said the £1,029,436 will be awarded to 10 projects across the north to help the most at-risk young people in society to improve their confidence and personal resilience as well as empowering communities to develop strong cross-border partnerships.
The IFI, which was set up in 1986 by the British and Irish governments to deliver a range of peace and reconciliation initiatives, will deliver the support through its peace impact, personal youth development and communities in partnership programmes.
It said it comes at "a fragile time in peace building as political instability and the cost-of-living crisis threaten to cause polarization and further breakdown in community relations".
IFI chair Paddy Harte said: "Peace building work with those who are often hardest to reach has never been more important.
"Our projects are working tirelessly in a very difficult climate to engage with those who have not felt the benefits of the Peace Process.
"We are committed to delivering cross-community and cross-border outreach, encouraging challenging conversations to deal with the current issues as well as the legacy of the Troubles.
"In the past 12 months, the IFI has engaged with over 19,000 people in capacity building, events, and training.
"Through tailored and unique support, 862 young people have achieved accreditations and 125 secured employment. These encouraging outcomes show that it is possible to achieve positive community transformation, but we must continue to build on this for future generations."
But Mr Harte said that the "continuing suspension of the NI Executive and the on-going uncertainty around the NI Protocol are causing polarization and hardening views across some communities in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties".
"Unfortunately, this has led to increased mistrust, disillusionment, and the feeling of being left behind with little optimism for the future," he added.
"If we add the cost-of-living crisis into this mix, the stark reality is that many marginalised communities who feel they received little from the Good Friday Agreement remain the most vulnerable and need positive intervention.
"The current instability has created a large vacuum filled with opportunity for paramilitary groups to exploit and gain prominence.
"We also recognise the importance of offering opportunities for young people who, without this support, would remain more susceptible to paramilitary recruitment or anti-social behaviour.
"We continue to successfully divert young people away from activity that could be detrimental to their future."