One of Northern Ireland’s leading peace-building charities has queried how the Government will distribute funding if it leaves Europe with no deal.
Cash for voluntary groups working to heal division is channelled through an all-Ireland cross-border body. The future of such organisations following a no-deal exit is a live question.
Prime Minister Theresa May has told the DUP her government will remain committed to supporting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Peter Sheridan, chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, said: “We want to see it continuing because we have still some way to go yet on the peace process, whatever happens around Brexit, both the European and British Governments have committed to protecting the peace process.”
Money for voluntary groups working at grassroots level in Northern Ireland and the border regions of the Republic has helped bolster engagement across divided communities.
The British Government and the EU have committed to continuing funding up to 2020.
Mr Sheridan questioned how Britain would distribute its money after Brexit.
“I am not clear what the next bit is.
“How is that managed, at the minute it is distributed through the SEUPB (Special European Union Programmes Body), that may continue but if Britain is outside Europe it may have some sort of separate management role.”
An SEUPB spokesman said: “This has been a matter of ongoing discussions and detailed considerations between the SEUPB and the respective Government departments as to the practical arrangements that will be required to ensure that on-going payments will be made to projects.”
Mr Sheridan said violence was not inevitable under a no-deal scenario.
“It becomes a matter of choice for people, they may choose violence but the Good Friday Agreement showed there is a different way of dealing with violence and that is through dialogue.
“People may disagree with the end result but to use violence is a matter of choice.
“The Good Friday Agreement tells you that through dialogue things can be resolved, better through dialogue than using violence.”
In January the UK announced it would spend about £300 million on peace projects.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has cast doubt on whether the cash could be delivered if there is a no-deal Brexit.
The DUP and British Government have become estranged over the issue of the Irish border backstop and over continued funding for cross-community work.
DUP MEP Diane 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.”
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson said it was “hypocritical” of the DUP to talk about concerns over peace funding when its MEP voted against funding extensions and continues to support Brexit.