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Ad Hoc members want 25 percent increase for IFI

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of Congress want to increase IFI funding to show their appreciation for the recent vote for peace in Ireland.

Members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs spoke at a news conference last week, urging a 25 percent increase for America’s contribution to the International Fund for Ireland to $4.9 million per year.

“The overwhelming ‘yes’ vote isolates those who reject peaceful change and reform in the North,” said Chairman of the powerful House International Relations Committee, Ben Gilman, a New York Republican. “We must now bring about meaningful change and create a peace dividend.”

On the Senate side of Capitol Hill, New York Republican Alphonse D’Amato is trying to shepherd the increase through the Foreign Operations Appropriation bill that will be marked up in July. He must get Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, who in the past has supported IFI funding, and Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy to work on behalf of the increase in committee.

The Foreign Operations appropriation bill is one of 13 must-pass pieces of legislation that Congress has to have completed before an anticipated October adjournment next fall.

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The bipartisan Ad Hoc committee emphasized the need to develop economic success in tandem with the successful peace process. It is much easier to become involved in violence and dissident groups when people don’t have jobs to go to every day, explained the members.

For every Protestant unemployed in the North, there are two unemployed Catholics , the committee noted. Economic aid to develop employment opportunities is seen as vital to cementing the climate of peace into the landscape of Northern Ireland and the border counties.

The White House is a stalwart backer of the IFI, but with come cost-conscious legislators sure to demand to know just where the increase would come from, it will not weigh in on whether there should be an increase.

However, the President did back up his commitment to provide economic opportunities for a peaceful Northern Ireland. President Clinton sent Commerce Secretary William Daley to Belfast this week where he warned the people there that any new sectarian violence would quickly dissuade investors lured by the prospect of peace.

Traveling with a top-level trade mission, Daley was optimistic about Northern Ireland, but he said those taking part in meetings had concerns over the upcoming marching season and the possibility of violence.

“The point is that those sort of actions, if they become violent, have an impact on business people,” Daley said after touring areas in the North.

During the trade mission’s visit to Bombardier ‘rospace-Shorts in Belfast, the firm announced a $14.7 million expansion and a further 350 jobs to supply carbon-fiber components for manufacturers including the Boeing company. Boeing representatives are traveling with Secretary Daley.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam, meeting with the delegation, sought to assure investors that the British government was doing all it could to minimize any difficulty in the coming marching months

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