All areas, groups and sectors will have an equal opportunity to access Peace II funding. Equality of opportunity and balanced intervention are among several horizontal principles that govern the way in which the Peace II programme will be implemented. Furthermore, in accordance with section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Special EU Programmes Body has a responsibility to promote equality of opportunity.
That being the case, perhaps the Minister will explain the situation in Lisburn. Funding was not distributed equally the last time: the Protestant community did not get its fair allocation. The new board does not reflect the balance in the community. Its chairperson and deputy chairperson are Roman Catholic, although the community is 70% Protestant. Coming from a background of unfair allocations, how can we expect equity and equality in the community? How does the Minister expect the public to have any confidence in the process?
Members will appreciate that I did not have any responsibility for the matters that the Member seems to be pointing to.
However, I would be very concerned if there were any substantial evidence to back up the Member’s remarks. If he has any such evidence, he should make it available to me. In my initial response, I indicated that the Executive have a clear, firm and explicit obligation to respect all equality requirements when allocating EU Peace II programme funds. That applies to EU funds and to all expenditure for which the Executive are responsible, and it applies across the board when allocating any form of public funding. Again, without evidence that would enable me to make a judgement, it is impossible for me to answer the question.
Peace II resources will be targeted on areas, sectors and groups that have been adversely affected by the conflict over the past 30 years. Those will include areas that were disadvantaged by the conflict, interface areas, victims and their families, ex-prisoners and their families, young people, women, older workers, and sectors or activities in business, the arts and sports that have been adversely affected by the conflict.
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. How does the Minister expect Peace II funding to be distributed equitably, given that it is based on need — rather than religion, as the DUP may suggest — and given that district council areas west of the River Bann have seen a decrease in the allocation of Peace II funding?
I have made it clear that funds are allocated on the basis of equality with due respect to the requirements set out in section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The Member will be aware — and members of the Committee for Finance and Personnel will be even more aware — of the considerable amount of consultation and discussion that has taken place on the basis on which allocations would be made, for example, to local strategic partnerships in the current round of Peace II funding allocations. The indicators were agreed by the Committee for Finance and Personnel and the Executive, which therefore includes the Ministers from the Member’s party.