Northern Ireland

Council's peace funding could be returned to Europe

Mark Gordon
Image caption Mark Gordon was one the protesters

Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of peace funding that North Down Council is responsible for could be headed back to Europe.

The BBC has learned that £825,000 has yet to be distributed by the council to schemes in its own borough as well as the Ards and Down Council districts.

The council says the money is in limbo.

It says community groups have either not laid claim to it or have not submitted the correct paperwork.

A spokesperson for the council said: "All of this money has been allocated to the various projects and they have until 8 July 2011 (based on the extension date of 30 June 2011) to put in their claims for the remaining funds.

"Claims are currently being received on a daily basis as projects seek to ensure they meet the deadline set by the PEACE III funding body, SEUPB."

Several hundred loyalists protested over the "mismanagement" of money outside the council in Bangor on Tuesday night.

Mark Gordon, from the Kilcooley Development Forum, was one of the protesters. He said concerns about the peace money was just one of their grievances.

"The protest has three elements. The first is the council's determination to eradicate bonfires from this borough," he said

"The second is about the Peace III mismanagement that is the European money, and the third is about loyalism being treated disrespectfully by a DUP-led council."

These allegations were disputed by North Down Borough Council.

A spokesperson said: "Over the past two years, via the PEACE III programme, the council has made available more than £400,000 for projects in what can be considered predominately Protestant communities across the borough.

"The council has also made up to £15,600 available for 11 July bonfire celebrations in North Down this year."

The second wave of Peace III funding is due to be announced shortly. It is expected to be more than £2.5m.

North Down has put forward eight projects for this money across the three council areas. It is only mooting schemes in its own district that the council is directly involved in.

The council spokesperson said any groups not earmarked for potential funding have the option to reapply.

They said: "Decisions in relation to PEACE III funding in the North Down, Ards and Down area are taken by the PEACE III Partnership for the area.

"North Down Borough Council does not manage the partnership, it is an equal partner, with all other partners, which includes community/voluntary and statutory groups. The council provides administrative and secretariat support to the partnership, which is responsible for its own decisions and actions."

The DUP's Alex Easton said: "There appears to be a breakdown of relationships between working class communities and the council.

"This is not a good situation to have been allowed to develop. It is vital that the council and community representatives start dialogue without preconditions in an attempt to resolve on going issues with Peace III funding and bonfires so that good relationships can be built upon."