PEACEPLUS, a new €1.1 billion cross-border EU programme, was launched in Belfast, Northern Ireland today, Monday, September 11.

PEACEPLUS is a "new and unique" cross-border EU programme for the 2021-27 European programming period, the Irish government said in a statement on Monday.

With an unprecedented budget of €1.1 billion, it will invest in projects supporting shared peace and prosperity across a programme area of Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland including Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan, and Sligo.

Successive iterations of the EU’s INTERREG and PEACE cross-border programmes have between them invested some €3.3 billion on the island of Ireland since their inception in the 1990s, the Irish government said. PEACEPLUS succeeds them by combining these two cross-border funding strands into a new and cohesive programme for the decade ahead.

With a budget of more than twice the combined value of the most recent INTERREG and PEACE programmes, the new programme has been structured around six thematic investment areas:

  • Building Peaceful and Thriving Communities;
  • Delivering Economic Regeneration and Transformation;
  • Empowering and Investing in our Young People;
  • Healthy and Inclusive Communities;
  • Supporting a Sustainable Future;
  • Building and Embedding Partnership and Collaboration

Programme development has been led by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), a cross-border North South Implementation Body jointly sponsored by the Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform in Ireland, and the Minister of Finance in Northern Ireland. 

The draft PEACEPLUS programme was approved by Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, and the North South Ministerial Council in October 2021, and formally adopted by the European Commission in July 2022. A Financing Agreement between Ireland, the EU, and the UK was completed earlier this year, allowing PEACEPLUS to open for funding applications in June.

Monday's launch was hosted by the SEUPB at Newforge Community Development Trust Shared Space in south Belfast. This new shared space received funding of €5.8m from the EU PEACE IV programme to transform the former PSNI Sports Club at Newforge into a mixed-used community facility. 

On hand for the launch event in Belfast on Monday were Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Ireland's Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery & Reform Paschal Donohoe, European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris MP and head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Dr. Jayne Brady.

We are excited to launch the PEACEPLUS Programme today. Pictured: Jayne Brady, HOCS NI; Paschal Donohoe TD; Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris, Secretary of State NI; SEUPB CEO Gina McIntyre; An Tanaiste Leo Varadkar; & Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice-President, European Commisison.

— SEUPB (@SEUPB) September 11, 2023

Speaking at the launch on Monday, Varadkar said: “It’s a real pleasure to be here in Belfast to formally launch the PEACEPLUS programme.

"With record funding of €1.1 billion, PEACEPLUS is an unprecedented investment by the EU, the UK, Ireland, and Northern Ireland in reconciliation and cross-border cooperation, helping to build peace and promote prosperity on the island.

“Although we are making this announcement against the stark backdrop of suspended power-sharing Institutions, today is a welcome reminder of just what is possible, and how we can make real progress.

"When Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK, and the EU work together, it yields a significant dividend for Northern Ireland and the border region.”

"With record funding of €1.14bn, PEACEPLUS is an unprecedented investment by the EU, UK, Ireland and Northern Ireland in reconciliation and cross-border cooperation, helping to build peace and build prosperity on the island." says An Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar #PEACEPLUS

— SEUPB (@SEUPB) September 11, 2023

Heaton-Harris said during the launch: "In view of our unyielding commitment to upholding the Agreement, we will continue to work tirelessly to secure an even brighter, more reconciled future for Northern Ireland, thereby enabling it to look forward.

"That is why we continue to support the work of the SEUPB, following the UK’s exit from the European Union. We are providing more than £730 million to the programme (almost 75% of the budget), which includes match funding contributions from the Northern Ireland Executive. Together with contributions from the European Commission and Ireland of over £250 million, this brings the total up to almost £1 billion, a huge investment from across the international stage towards peace and prosperity as we mark the anniversary of the Agreement and look forward to the next 25 years."

He added: "Too often, in politics, we focus on the issues that divide us. PEACEPLUS is there to counter this tendency; to promote peace and reconciliation."

"The UK Government is pleased to support the @SEUPB's work in PEACEPLUS, providing over £730m in funding. The government is committed to helping NI to reach its full potential as a prosperous and stable part of the United Kingdom," says the Secretary of State for NI. #PEACEPLUS

— SEUPB (@SEUPB) September 11, 2023

Šefčovič said at the launch: "The EU is, and will always remain, a peace project."

He continued: "Here in Northern Ireland, we have seen how peace, when it is not a given, becomes an overwhelming desire, a primary necessity.

"And we have also seen how much we can achieve together when we put our hearts and minds to it.

"The Belfast / Good Friday Agreement has provided a sustainable basis for peace in Northern Ireland for the past 25 years. It took great political courage from all sides to make it happen. We all have a duty to protect it, and the gains it has brought about.

"I am pleased to be here today to participate in the launch the PEACEPLUS programme, which on the European Union side reaffirms our deep and strong commitment to the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement."

Šefčovič, who said the European Union has allocated €235 million to PEACEPLUS, added: "I want to reassure you all that my commitment to implementing the Windsor Framework, strengthening overall EU-UK relations, and striving for greater prosperity in Northern Ireland remains as strong as ever."

It was a pleasure to be in #Belfast for the launch of #PEACEPLUS.

This programme bringing together the🇬🇧, 🇮🇪 , 🇪🇺 & the Northern Ireland Executive, shows our commitment to supporting peace in #NorthernIreland, now and in the future.

My speech:

— Maroš Šefčovič🇪🇺 (@MarosSefcovic) September 11, 2023

Brady said at Monday'slaunch that the new programme will "provide the opportunity for our communities to foster understanding, develop relationships and contribute to the building of our shared society."

Dr Jayne Brady, Head of the Civil Service of NI: "#PEACEPLUS will build on the significant achievements of previous programmes and provide the opportunity for our communities to foster understanding, develop relationships and contribute to the building of our shared society."

— SEUPB (@SEUPB) September 11, 2023