Hopes are high of US lifeline for IFI

As the North braced itself for budget cutbacks yesterday, there was the prospect of good news on the funding front from the US.

For a proposed $15m allocation in the upcoming US budget for the International Fund for Ireland could mean a new lease of life for the body which was to be wound up in 2012.

Earlier this year, Gerry Adams hosted a visit of US Congress representatives to West Belfast’s Conway Mill where the International Fund has been a key backer. He also stressed that the Fund had backed the £2m extension at An Chultúrlann.

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His views were echoed by other local politicians and by many prominent Irish American leaders in an open letter to Congress members.
Now leading Irish American attorney and campaigner Brian O’Dwyer says he’s been informed that the budget now before the US Congress and Senate includes a $15m commitment to the IFI.

“Irish America had lobbied our elected representatives vigorously on this issue, insisting that this was the time for the IFI to cement the peace with funding rather than to walk away from the communities in North Ireland,” he said.

“Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York contacted me today to say that she and her colleagues have made a $15m provision for the Fund in the new budget. Of course, it has to pass through both houses but that is certainly good news.”

Since 1986, the International Fund for Ireland has pumped almost £700m into 6,000 projects across the Northern counties on both sides of the Border.

The Fund had entered a ‘sunset’ period with plans to wind up at the end of 2011. However, this lifeline from the US should ensure its continued existence.