23 September 2005

Violence pays: Group linked to Orange Order to get £250K

Daily Ireland

Jarlath Kearney

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Daily Ireland can reveal that, in June 2005, the International Fund for Ireland approved a major grant of £250,000 for an organisation closely associated with the Orange Order.
Crucially, the money will be confined to funding various organisations which use Orange halls across the North – including loyalist bands. The IFI claimed last night that the grant is “designed to foster community reconciliation”.
The organisation which received grant approval is called the Orange Community Network. OCN is a not-for-profit limited company that includes loyal order members acting in personal capacities. OCN claims to have no formal linkage with the Orange Order.
Democratic Unionist Party councillor William Humphrey is vice-chairperson of OCN. Contacted by Daily Ireland last night, the North Belfast representative confirmed that he is also chairperson of the West Belfast Orange Hall. Councillor Humphrey has served as a member of the DUP’s ruling executive and as chairperson of the party in north Belfast.
Councillor Humphrey said that OCN has still not “worked out” criteria for the dispersal of the grant funding which has been approved. Councillor Humphrey added: “It will be used to promote community organisation, empowerment and capacity building… about groups that work from or are connected to Orange halls, and will include bands connected with Orange halls but also other organisations.”
A spokesperson for the IFI told Daily Ireland: “I can confirm that at it’s meeting in June 2005, the Board of the International Fund for Ireland approved financial assistance of up to a maximum of £250,000 to the Orange Community Network towards a three year community capacity building project, the objectives of which include promoting and developing embryonic community groups, the engagement of young people in constructive activities, the fostering of co-operation and interaction with the wider community, and support for the creation of a number of new community groups over the next three years.”
News of the IFI’s major grant funding emerged as secretary of state Peter Hain announced measures to specifically address the “particular needs of loyalist communities”. Mr Hain’s intervention yesterday following sustained sectarian violence by sections of the unionist community in recent weeks.
“I am conscious of the criticism that our own efforts as a government could be better co-ordinated, and services more closely connected to disadvantaged communities, and I do acknowledge the particular needs of loyalist communities.
“To tackle this I want to embark upon a process of intensive engagement with elected representatives and civil leaders from the Protestant community,” Mr Hain said.
However despite Mr Hain’s announcement yesterday, Daily Ireland can reveal that an organisation called the Loyalism Working Group – including senior civil servants – has already been meeting regularly since at least April 2005.
All of the North’s senior civil servants and departmental permanent secretaries have been formally appraised of the Loyalism Working Group’s activities.
Yesterday Daily Ireland revealed that the Department of Finance and Personnel played a central role in recent moves to ensure the Orange Order receives special European Peace II funding.
DFP approved a memo by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) that consideration of funding applications by the Orange Order, should not take into account “who has made the application”.
The Orange Order formally excludes Catholics and bars women from full membership of the organisation.
Following sustained political pressure by the DUP, the memo was issued to various funding implementation bodies on September 7 – just days ahead of the vicious sectarian onslaught by sections of the unionist community in tandem with the Orange Order’s re-routed Whiterock march on September 10.
Sinn Fein yesterday announced that the party shall be writing to the DFP and the SEUPB to voice concern about the development.
In a joint statement Councillors Billy Leonard and Angela Nelson said: “The implications of this intervention by civil servants are immense. This has compromised the integrity of the SEUPB.
“Transparency, openness and the basic principles behind the partnership model have been compromised.
“We will seek explanations from both organisations and demand they clarify their position publicly.

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