Thursday, 23 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
4. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will ensure in the allocation of EU funds that the position of the six Border counties in the Republic will receive a fair allocation; and the representations, if any, he has made to ensure this. [4130/95]
13. Mr. D. Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has satisfied himself with the proposed proportionate share of funding under the Delors package for Northern Ireland and the six Border counties; if not, if he will make representations to the appropriate authorities in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1140/95]
On 14 February 1995, the EU Commission adopted draft guidelines for the new initiative for Northern Ireland and the Border counties in support of the peace process. The draft guidelines will now be considered by the Committee of the Regions, the Management Committee on Commission Initiatives and the  European Parliament. Once this examination process is completed, the guidelines can be formally adopted. This is expected to take place by the end of April. The two member states concerned will then be given four months to prepare an operational programme.
As I outlined in the Dáil on 24 January, it is accepted that the greater share of the funding will go to Northern Ireland. The Commission has indicated in the draft guidelines that the North will receive a maximum of 80 per cent of the overall funding and the South a minimum of 20 per cent.
While I fully accept that the six southern Border counties have suffered from the adverse effects of the troubles in the North, I believe that the envisaged North/South division on funding for the EU initiative represents a reasonable balance. The central theme of the EU initiative is the need to bring about reconciliation and I consider that the requirements in this respect are more acute in Northern Ireland. I should also point out that the six southern counties represent about 20 per cent of the population of the total eligible area.
I have previously indicated that I am willing to meet Deputies from the six southern Border counties in order to discuss matters relating to both the EU and US aid packages. A meeting has been arranged with the Deputies concerned and I look forward to hearing from them at first hand their views on all of these issues.
Mr. R. Burke: Does the Minister agree that many areas on the southern side of the Border are poorer, more deprived and were more badly affected by the troubles in the North than those on the northern side? What percentages have been applied to the division of aid between North and South in INTERREG I and II, in the special aid package and the IFI? Is it not 75 per cent/25 per cent in most cases and is 80 per cent/20 per cent a retrograde step? Will he press to have the percentage altered to recognise the critical position of many areas in the six Border counties?
Mr. Spring: The southern Border counties also suffered from the difficulties and consequences of decades of violence and division between the two communities in Northern Ireland. Obviously, there has been a spill-over to the Border counties, both well acknowledged and recorded.
The Deputy will be aware that the ratio in International Fund spending is 75:25, which would have been the guideline in the past. On the 80 per cent/20 per cent ratio I have given as indicative, if one looks at the details in the draft, one will see 15 per cent is allocated for cross-Border projects, the remainder to be divided by way of a maximum of 80 per cent to the North and not less than a minimum of 20 per cent to the South. Therefore, there may be a need for rebalancing as the programme progresses through its various stages, when obviously the 15 per cent will be very important. In my meeting with Border county Deputies I hope to examine the type of cross-Border projects coming forward. What is important is that we get funding from the European Union throughout the various stages from the Committee of the Regions, the Management Committee on Commission Initiatives and the European Parliament in order to get the operational programme up and running as soon as possible.
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