11 January 2006

Boost for loyalist areas unveiled

BBC


NIO minister David Hanson said all criminality must end

A scheme to ensure that funding in loyalist areas is spent as effectively as it is among nationalist communities has been unveiled by the government.

NIO Minister David Hanson said the plan would focus on how government can empower working class Protestant communities to tackle deprivation.

It was drawn up following concerns that policies were not making the intended impact in loyalist districts.

Mr Hanson reiterated that loyalist paramilitaries must end criminality.

"We are very clear, as we have been with the IRA, that criminality and paramilitary activity are not compatible with a democratically governed, modern business society in the 21st century," he said.

Debate

Mr Hanson said he sensed that loyalist paramilitaries were debating how to move away from criminality.

"What we now have to do is encourage confidence in the political process and show that that type of activity is actually holding back the community.

"We have to ensure the transformation takes place in loyalism, as I believe it is doing slowly but surely within the IRA."

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said his party would judge the government's plan on whether it actually met the needs of the loyalist community.

The North Belfast MP said the DUP had tabled a detailed 12-page action plan to the government in December to target socio-economic problems in the community.

"What we do need is a long-term, properly-funded plan that will deliver results that overcomes difficulties with educational underachievement, social housing shortages and a lack of employment skills," he added.

Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland welcomed the move but said "a proper diagnosis followed by a detailed course of treatment" was needed to "heal the social and economic wounds".

"Simply throwing a one-off tranche of funding or seeking to shirk blame for past errors will not sort out what are effectively generational problems in terms of health, education and housing," he said.

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