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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 12:59 GMT
Cautious welcome for loyalist initiative
The funding will aid loyalist communities
A 3m initiative to aid disadvantaged communities announced by the prime minister has been welcomed by Northern Ireland politicians.

The package, announced by Tony Blair on Wednesday, is to be directed at improving damaged environments and is expected to especially benefit loyalist communities.

The prime minister said it was important that loyalism found "a proper and true political voice" and that he hoped the government would be able to help.

"Loyalism does also face a choice - a choice between trying to pursue a political path or a descent into gangsterism and criminality that does nothing at all for the reputation of anyone," he said.

Nigel Dodds: North Belfast DUP MP
Nigel Dodds: "Funding must be monitored closely"

However, Nigel Dodds, MP for north Belfast, said the money should be monitored closely to ensure it went to the right people

"What it has to be used for is ensure that there are people within the community who are taking on leadership, who have the skills to advocate for their local communities a way forward and don't have to rely on paramilitaries or gangsters or local mobsters to do it for them," he said.

"That is why this money can be useful but it has to be monitored very carefully."

Independent Unionist councillor Frank McCoubrey welcomed the money but said it was "10 years too late".

"Some of the areas that I represent are in the top 10 socially deprived, working-class loyalist areas in the whole of Northern Ireland," he said.


"I hope that the money will be administrated in the proper way and directed to the needy and to the areas that really need it."

The cash injection was announced on Wednesday following talks between Tony Blair and the Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to resolve some of the outstanding issues in the deadlocked political process

Speaking after the talks, both premiers indicated they were working on a blueprint that would pave the way for a return to devolved government in the province.

With elections to the Stormont Assembly due for May, a deadline of 3 March has been set for agreement - intensifying pressure on the IRA to end its activity for good.

The prime ministers held an hour-long summit before meeting the main political parties for intensive talks as efforts continue to restore the power-sharing institutions.


Secretary of State Paul Murphy said intensive negotiations would begin to see what the IRA must do before the next set of talks between the British and Irish Governments take place.

Last October, Mr Blair issued a challenge to republicans by calling on them to make a move.

He called for acts of completion, which the IRA said were unrealisable.

Republicans have called for major moves from the British Government, including demilitarisation, further moves on policing and reforms on human rights and equality issues.

In return, the government and unionists want IRA units to stand down, a declaration that "the war is over" and public acts of decommissioning.

Assuming a deal can be reached between republicans and the government, the Ulster Unionist Party would still have to be persuaded to return to a power-sharing administration at Stormont.

Northern Ireland's devolved institutions were suspended on 14 October 2002 following a row over allegations of IRA activity, including alleged spying within the Northern Ireland Office.

Des Browne, NIO minister:
"We need people to engage with government at an appropriate level"
UUP councillor Fred Cobain:
"There needs to be a strategic approach that includes housing, health and education"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis





See also:

09 Feb 03 | N Ireland
12 Feb 03 | N Ireland
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