Washington, DC—On the House floor today Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) spoke in opposition to an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) which would cut the $10.8 million in funding for the International Fund for Ireland from the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for FY 2007.
“The United States has been a major donor to and supporter of the International Fund for Ireland since its inception,” said Higgins. “To stop assistance now would only undercut the very heart of the Fund’s central goal—to ease social tensions through an advanced economic forum at a time when there is finally progress towards peace. The IFI has succeeded with its plan in the past, and with extended American support, will, I hope, continue to achieve success in the future. Our involvement is necessary for the realization of our shared goals – educating a new generation to understand that peace and prosperity are possible across all of Ireland.”
The Fund was established by the Irish and British governments twenty years ago to promote economic and social advancement and to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists throughout Ireland. Contributors to the Fund are the United States, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Its total expenditure since 1986 is more than €750m. The Fund’s budget for 2006 is €36 million. Funding priorities include grassroots level reconciliation and cross-community projects. In addition, the Fund will address the root causes of deprivation in the most disadvantaged areas by using shared economic concerns as a platform for regeneration and cross-community activity. The Fund will also continue its pioneering work with children and young people throughout the North and border counties.
In light of the progress towards peace and prosperity throughout Ireland, the new strategy aims to make the Fund more flexible and responsive to perceived needs, focusing on building foundations for reconciliation in the most marginalized communities, building bridges between divided communities, moving towards a more integrated society, and leaving a legacy looking ahead to ensure sustainability over the longer term.
The United States has been a donor to the International Fund for Ireland since its inception and has been a strong supporter of the Fund in the pursuit of its objectives. To date the U.S. has contributed and committed over $400 million to the Fund.
If US funding were to cease in 2007, the funding available for activities in 2007 would fall by over 40% from 2006 levels and almost 50% from 2005 levels. Programs focusing on reconciliation among schoolchildren and young adults (Wider Horizons, KEY and LET) would face serious reductions. An end to the US contribution would hinder, if not halt, the implementation of the IFI’s exit strategy to 2010. The exit strategy will focus the work of the IFI on reconciliation and encouraging meaningful, lasting, cross-border and cross-community activity. The strategy places particular emphasis on support for integration in housing, schooling and in the community sector. The United States has been crucial in the leveraging of support from other sources. A termination of U.S. funding will undermine the perception of the IFI as an internationally supported body and may fatally damage the ability of those communities to secure funding from other sources.