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Irish community groups need clearer access to funding opportunities

Added 17-Nov-2015

BIPA Committee report highlights leading role of football clubs in tackling sectarianism

In a report published today, Tuesday 17 November 2015, the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly's Environmental and Social Committee calls on the Scottish Government and local authorities to increase dialogue with Irish community groups to facilitate anti-sectarian efforts.  

The Committee welcomes the important work undertaken to combat sectarianism, in particular in schools, and the projects that have been undertaken that have helped build cross-community relationships. However, while sectarian tensions have diminished, there is no room for complacency and the Committee acknowledges some concerns about the direction and efficacy of anti-sectarian funding.

 The Committee heard evidence of some dissatisfaction at the access that Irish community organisations have to funding streams, whether at local authority or central government level. The Committee encourages the implementation of a "roadmap" to help community groups who wish to celebrate the positive aspects of their communities. It urges the Scottish Government and local authorities to engage in dialogue with community groups to ensure that:

  • The visibility of funding opportunities is raised;
  • Community groups are aware of what funding opportunities are available and what criteria need to be fulfilled;
  • Advice is provided on why funding bids are unsuccessful, and how future bids can be improved.

Given the prominent role they play as representatives of different communities in Scotland, football clubs have a particular responsibility to take the lead in tackling sectarianism and developing sensible dialogue between groups to promote further understanding and mutual respect of cultural identities, and foster tolerance.  The Committee welcomes the Scottish Government's review of the impact of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, which found that there has been a significant decline in offences committed at football grounds. Yet while the Scottish Government cites evidence of public support for the Act, it remains highly contentious in the eyes of a number of supporters' groups. The Committee urges the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and fans' groups to ensure that dialogue continues to enable any concerns about the application of the legislation to be investigated and dealt with.

Lord Dubs, Chair of the Committee, said: "Irish communities, however they are defined, contribute greatly to the rich diversity of Scottish life. There are increasingly close political and economic ties between Scotland and Ireland and we welcome this as an indicator of harmonious and cooperative relationships in the years to come. Historically, Irish communities have faced issues of discrimination and disadvantage but we are pleased to note such concerns are diminishing as time goes by. In ongoing efforts to tackle sectarianism, it is important to ensure that Irish community resources are open to all, and we welcome the positive signs that this is already happening. It is also important to ensure that community groups have sufficient capacity to make effective use of any funding that is secured. While challenges remain, in particular ensuring that the activities of community groups are adequately resourced, we are confident that the Irish communities in Scotland will make an increasingly forceful and positive contribution to Scottish society in the years to come."

Committee D report on Irish Communities in Scotland 51st Plenary

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