Telling the Story of Peace II
This research commissioned by the Distinctiveness Working Group (SEUPB) provided an insight into the impact that PEACE II funding has had in Strabane, East Belfast and Cavan. This research was intended to supplement additional quantitative data that is available on PEACE II funding in Northern Ireland and the border counties.
The research was conducted by the NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) Research Unit between June and September 2004. A total of 84 interviews were carried out with PEACE II recipient organisations and other key actors from the media, political parties and other civil society organisations across each of the three study areas. This research was not intended to be an evaluation of monitoring forms or an audit of PEACE II funding projects but more of an attempt to garner opinion on the wider impact PEACE II funding has had in each of the areas.
In relation to the level of funding received by each area, a total of £6.2 million went to 86 projects in the Strabane District Council area. East Belfast received £14 million under PEACE II across 74 different projects. Finally, a total of 58 projects in County Cavan received PEACE II funding amounting to €7.7 million.
First, PEACE II has instigated, implemented and supported initiatives, projects and activities that would have perhaps not been funded or would have taken longer to establish. PEACE II has provided an impetus to address the under investment in the social, physical and economic infrastructure of each of the areas that has been as a direct consequence of the conflict.
Second, through the introduction of the distinctiveness criteria, an environment has been created where applicants have had to think about other communities and the needs that exist there. This has made a lot of recipient organisations of PEACE II recognise the impact of the conflict and how that may be addressed in as inclusive a manner as possible. Many respondents who were in receipt of PEACE II funding claimed that they would not have otherwise considered quite as fully the needs of the other community and would not have necessarily pursued just as explicit a programme of peace building or cross-community work. That is not to say there was unanimous agreement with regard to the distinctiveness criteria. A number of respondents (both recipients and non-recipients of PEACE II funding) felt that some elements of the PEACE II programme were inflexible to realities on the ground, for instance the interface violence and intra-community feuds in East Belfast and what may have been appropriate in a rural setting was more difficult to translate into an urban one. There was also a feeling that the distinctiveness criteria had, in some cases, meant that some projects were not funded because of the adherence to ensuring a reconciliation element in all funded projects. This was particularly the case in relation to single identity work in areas where there is almost homogeneity within the population.
Like all research, and particularly this type of research, more questions than answers are often posed. This report is no different and at its core the question still remains, is this type of funding programme the best way to tackle the most basic issues of what divides us? No one initiative or funding programme could ever reasonably claim to tackle such a fundamental issue. At the very least this research has shown us that PEACE II has contributed to putting in place an environment where individuals and organisations have to consider the needs of others. Whether or not this has fully translated into addressing divisions and engendering greater inclusivity within our society is debatable. Nevertheless given the enormity of the task in hand it would be churlish not to recognise the significance of PEACE II in attempting to create the conditions through which a normal and stable society may be achieved. The PEACE II funding programme is a chapter in a much larger and complex story that has yet to reach its conclusion.