Fury over grants to ex-prisoner groups


EX-PRISONER groups have received 50 times more in EU PEACE funding than organisations helping former members of the security forces. The stark disparity was last night branded "scandalous" by the former UDR member who uncovered the figures. Organisations that work to help police officers and soldiers – many permanently maimed by republican atrocities – were awarded £225,000 from PEACE II funds over the pastfive years. But ex-prisoner groups enjoyed a £11.3 million cash mountain over the same period. And that figure does not include a further £2.1m given to other groups which do not deal exclusively with inmates to "address the needs of ex-prisoners".

One group, Donegal-based Abhaile Aris which works with "the republican ex-prisoner community to bring about their acceptance as equal members of Irish society", received £447,844 in 2002 alone – almost double the total money given to all exservicemen's groups combined during the past five years. West Tyrone MLA Allan Bresland, a former member of the UDR, obtained the figures in a written Assembly answer from Finance Minister Peter Robinson. It did not, however, detail funding that has gone to general victims' groups, who work with many victims of terrorism. But even so, the lavish funding for ex-prisoner groups angered Mr Bresland. The DUP man said he was disgusted that the paramilitaries who "inflicted pain and sorrow upon communities" were being handed millions of pounds at their victims' expense.

"It is simply a disgrace that those – be they loyalist or republican – who held our Province to ransom through their murderous campaign have benefited in such a way from the PEACE programme," he said. "What has been achieved by the 80 projects engaged in working with ex-prisoners? Have they recognised the pain they caused upon our society and the broken hearts and broken homes left by their actions?

"The Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB) and the European Union will have to explain what has been achieved by the £13.4m of investment in exprisoners." Mr Bresland said he would be writing to SEUPB chief executive Pat Colgan asking him to explain the huge funding gap and querying what actions the body would take to address the "scandalous" imbalance when doling out the current PEACE III funding programme. "Organisations who work with former members of the security forces will also have to lobby SEUPB and ensure that the needs of their members are highlighted," he said.

"In the new delivery arrangements for PEACE III, those most in need of European funding could once again be sidelined. We cannot allow this to happen."I am not looking for froth or waffle. I demand a clear strategic plan on the part of SEUPB to address this disgraceful imbalance. "Those who served the community in the pursuit of law and order and their families deserve better than this."

The SEUPB's chief executive told the News Letter that he "welcomed the interest shown by Allan Bresland and his offer to help in addressing the low level of applications from certain sections of the community". Mr Colgan said: "We have proactively reached out to address these issues and can report that there has been an increase in successful applications from previously under-represented sections of the community. "The targeting of social need is one of the key criteria that all applications must satisfy together with the important peace and reconciliation criterion and we have not deviated from these key principles. "We are happy to work with elected representatives and others to ensure that all eligible projects are aware of the opportunities to apply for European Union PEACE funding.

"I have offered to meet Mr Bresland and look forward to discussing these matters with him. "There is constant independent monitoring and evaluation of the allocation of these European funds to ensure that appropriate and transparent systems are in place to guard the integrity of the funding process. "Consistent audits have demonstrated that SEUPB meets these exacting standards."

PROVES YOU ARE BETTER THOUGHT OF BEING A TERRORIST - but I'm glad I fought the bar-stewards for 35 years! My next battle is to fight for a pension from the MoD. Maybe I should apply to these SEUPB people??

Quite right too. They are the natural beneficiaries of any Correct distribution of funds by a Caring People's Organisation, while the lickspittle warmongering Forces of Conservatism deserve only the contempt of the voting proletariat. It's only money, though, after all.

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