Crowley Calls on the Republican Leadership to Not Eliminate Funding for the International Fund for Ireland

March 15, 2011
Press Release

Washington, D.C.Today, Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) called on the House Republican leadership to not eliminate funding for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), a dynamic multi-national program that has played an integral role in promoting peace in Northern Ireland. Crowley also said that the Republicans should not terminate the program the same week that leaders from across Ireland are visiting the United States. 

“It is a mistake for the House Republican leadership to try to end U.S. support for the International Fund for Ireland,” said Congressman Crowley. “Targeting this program for elimination in its entirety sends the wrong signal at the wrong time.  The United States has played an integral role in brokering and fostering peace in the North, and we can’t be turning our backs on this effort now. I urge my colleagues to carefully study the situation in Ireland before rushing into a decision that could have dire consequences.”

The vote to slash the IFI of U.S. support was scheduled to occur on Tuesday as part of a three-week continuing resolution to fund U.S. federal operations. 

The International Fund for Ireland, established in 1986, is a multinational fund that helps build reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland. The IFI plays a major role in creating conditions for peace in Northern Ireland through funding grassroots programs on conflict reconciliation, education, youth involvement and economic development. It is cost-effective for the United States, since many countries contribute to the fund. The United States, European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all contributed to the IFI. Before the creation of the fund, there were very few programs to bring together everyday people from both sides of the political divide and help create conditions for tolerance.

“From the Belfast Agreements in 1998 to the Hillsborough Castle Agreement last year, successive United States administrations have shown their commitment to the peace process in the North,” added Congressman Crowley. “The IFI is a model for how to help end conflict. It helps bring together people from all sides of the political divide to ensure that there is understanding that problems can worked out through politics instead of violence. This is pennies compared to the amount we have spent on international wars, and it is much more effective.”

Segregation and splits in the community remain problematic in Northern Ireland. The IFI is the primary funding mechanism working to build peace on a grassroots level, and its programs include bringing youth together to discuss the differences in their backgrounds, the Wider Horizons Program which arranges for youth from opposing communities to work together in the economy, and the Community Bridges Program through which young people can develop tolerance for nationalist and unionist traditions.  

The importance of supporting the ongoing work of the IFI is underlined by a recent increase in the threat of violence in the region. The threat level in Northern Ireland is currently severe, and a bomb recently abandoned in Belfast could have killed hundreds of people. 

Congressman Crowley is a seven-term representative from the 7th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He serves as chief deputy whip in the Democratic leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He also serves as a co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs and is deeply engaged on Irish affairs.