BREXIT has posed all kinds of challenges for our present and our future. Every single sectoral interest is likely to be affected to one extent or another.
For victims and survivors the impact on their circumstances as victims is perhaps not immediately obvious. However, as we enter into a phase likely to deliver, at last, the long overdue mechanisms to deal with the past, there will be immediate implications of Brexit. While the Stormont House Agreement made strong commitments to victims and survivors who engage with the mechanisms and the processes being “victim-centred”, the budget lines were not clear. And providing support for victims costs money.
By a coincidence – and not by design – the EU Peace IV programme with an element for victims and survivors was being designed. There was a happy coincidence that Peace monies could be dedicated to the recognised need for support of victims and survivors engaging with the Stormont House mechanisms. The timetables were fairly much the same and it met multiple interests for the relatively small sum of money to be dedicated in this way.
The plan was/is that Peace IV will pay for the employment of support workers to assist families with the practical and emotional journeys that engagement with the Stormont House mechanisms implies. The peace programme was to last about five years and again that matched the agreed timetable of the SHA. So far, so mutually convenient. Then the English and Welsh voted for Brexit. Now nothing is certain.
Will the monies committed for Peace IV materialise? Statements from London would suggest not. Thankfully the Minister for Finance is alive to the threat.
In this uncertainty only one thing is certain, that uncertainty only adds to the fears and anxieties of families who are preparing to engage with the promised Stormont House mechanisms. Leadership and decision is required at this time. The Stormont House bodies need to be established in a speedy and human rights-compliant fashion. All of those who agreed to the bodies need to work together to ensure that the committed resources for enabling participation of victims and survivors are secured and match the time table of the SHA. This may require a new role for the Irish government and the cross-border Executive. If jurisdictional matters become the barrier to the Peace monies then the cross-jurisdictional nature of our peace process and peace building need to swing into action. Ireland as the EU Remainer could and should take responsibility for the Peace monies. With the cross-border bodies that have distributed and managed Peace monies in the past there is infrastructure there that the EU has total confidence in. Peace in our jurisdiction is an EU investment that far exceeds the implications of Brexit.
With the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and with the refugee crisis in Europe recently, the EU has managed to ensure that its peace-building and peace-keeping operations can be managed by member states with monies being spent in non-member zones. This requires a developing of the understanding of the role of the cross-border Executive and the Irish government as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. But these are uncertain times and require imagination and commitment to ensure that victims and survivors are supported.