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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Loyalist areas getting 33m boost
Mural
The money is for health and education in inner city areas
Deprived loyalist areas of inner city Belfast are getting millions to boost education and living conditions.

Social Development Minister David Hanson said the 33m package would also raise education standards among working class Protestants across NI.

He said previous attempts to tackle deprivation had "not always had the same impact in many Protestant areas".

An "areas of risk" programme, initially focusing on 10 pilot areas throughout NI, was also launched.

These include Dunclug in Craigavon, West Portadown, the Rathenraw estate in Antrim, Dhu Varren/Glenmanus in Portrush, Seacourt in Larne and a number of areas of Londonderry.

There is also a new fast track initiative to encourage young people to stay on in education and training after the age of 16.

In Belfast, the lower Newtownards Road, Shankill, Crumlin Road and Oldpark areas will receive a share of the money.

It is clear that efforts to tackle disadvantage need to become more focused
David Hanson
Social development minister

Separately from the schemes, Mr Hanson announced that the Department of Employment and Learning would build a new 13.5m Workforce and Economic Development Centre in the Springvale area of west Belfast.

It will provide outreach programmes across Belfast to ensure training opportunities are widely known and widely accessed by all.

"Failure to tackle disadvantage is not simply a question of additional resources," Mr Hanson said.

"It is clear that efforts to tackle disadvantage need to become more focused, developing strategies that are relevant to the particular needs of communities and considering carefully whether current spending is being used to maximum effect."

The MP for North Belfast, Nigel Dodds of the DUP, welcomed the initiative, but said the government must develop a long-term strategy to help loyalist areas.

"For the first time now there is an agenda, which we are pushing with government, to ensure these issues - in terms of unemployability, bad housing, lack of regeneration, poor educational access - are properly addressed," he said.

Let's make sure that the accountancy is done properly and that we get outcomes for the amounts spent
David Ervine
Progressive Unionist Party
Fred Cobain, North Belfast Ulster Unionist assembly member, said while he welcomed the money, he did not believe it would tackle deprivation.

"What we need in these areas is long-term strategic funding - we lost 6.5m of education budgets last week and the minister's talking of all children leaving school with a grade two educational qualification - hello," he said.

David Ervine, East Belfast PUP assembly member, welcomed the funding and said the programmes could make a difference to vulnerable communities.

"Let's make sure that the accountancy is done properly and that we get outcomes for the amounts spent," he said.

It is a serious mistake to sectarianise poverty
Gerry Kelly
Sinn Fein
SDLP North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness said the minister was "treading a dangerous path" in targeting "exclusively Protestant areas".

"It is important that funding is openly allocated on the basis of need and need only, rather than denomination."

Sinn Fein North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly said it was "a serious mistake to sectarianise poverty".

"Everyone accepts that there are serious levels of poverty in disadvantaged working class loyalist areas and particular problems around educational under-achievement," he said.

"By the same measure, it should be accepted that all of the recent objective evidence shows that poverty and disadvantage is more widespread in nationalist areas.

"Nationalists are still more likely to be unemployed and a greater percentage leave school with no qualifications."

The Renewing Communities action plan is based on the report of a taskforce which examined claims within the Protestant/unionist community that they had lost out to nationalists in improvement programmes since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Studies showed that of the 15 electoral wards in Northern Ireland with the worst educational attainment, 13 are predominantly Protestant.

Unveiling some 60 measures aimed at improving education, health care and housing, Mr Hanson said the government "believes in a fair and inclusive society".

Ridding communities of the influence of paramilitaries would be central to the project, the minister said.





SEE ALSO:
Loyalist cash boost 'not enough'
01 Apr 06 |  Northern Ireland
Cash boost 'inequality admission'
31 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
Team to help loyalist communities
18 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland
Hain challenges loyalist groups
21 Sep 05 |  Northern Ireland
3m boost for disadvantaged areas
18 May 05 |  Northern Ireland


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