Cuilcagh Mountain

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 18th October 2021.

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Photo of Áine Murphy Áine Murphy Sinn Féin 3:30 pm, 18th October 2021

T8. Ms Á Murphy asked the Minister of Finance whether he agrees that the £1 billion PEACE PLUS funding is hugely important to the preservation of local reserves such as Cuilcagh Mountain. (AQT 1698/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I had an opportunity to visit Cuilcagh for the first time last week. I was impressed not just by the beauty of the place but by the work that is going on there. That was a consequence of an EU-funded programme that was shared by the North, the South and Scotland. When we were there, we talked to people from the South, and, by Zoom, to a guy from Aberdeen who was doing a lot of the technical research required for saving and restoring boglands and wetlands here.

The potential of those lands for storing carbon and making sure that there is a reduction in carbon emissions is huge, besides the fact that they need to be restored. There is ongoing work, and that requires collaboration with farmers who have access to and ownership of the land. It is a hugely impressive project. It is a consequence of EU funding, and I hope that, under the PEACE PLUS funding that we have, projects such as that can continue to be supported because they are vital to our future.

Photo of Áine Murphy Áine Murphy Sinn Féin

Minister, do you agree that the PEACE PLUS funding is a lifeline for many border communities given that Brexit has had such an impact on those communities, and, indeed, on rural areas, and it is important that that funding is made sustainable?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

As I said in response to previous questions, we have seven years now and just short of £1 billion or €1·1 billion. That has the capacity to have an enormous impact for communities on the ground in border areas, across the Six Counties generally and in the border counties in the South.

It is very much to be welcomed. With the loss of other European funding that a lot of communities, organisations and social enterprises depended on to provide skills, jobs and programmes for people, PEACE PLUS is the only funding from Europe that we have left to which ordinary community groups and other projects on the ground can apply, so it is hugely important that it continues to play a role. I look forward to the next seven years to see many more community projects getting support through that fund.