FOREIGN OPERATIONS, EXPORT FINANCING, AND RELATED PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007
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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, let me just say, I appreciate the gentlewoman's willingness to withdraw this amendment.
I, like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, have worked for years going back to the creation of the International Fund for Ireland in the 1980s on providing funding and direction for the IFI. I have visited its projects and witnessed the cross community cooperation. As a direct result of the IFI and U.S. support for the fund, we have seen tremendous job creation. I would agree, in the Republic of Ireland there has been a significant growth, economic recovery, particularly in the Dublin area, not necessarily in western Ireland, but certainly in the Dublin area.
But in Northern Ireland, in Belfast, and in the counties in the north, there remains serious problems, problems that fuel social unrest. One of the things that I find so encouraging is that, we have worked well with the leaders of the IFI. They are on a glide path to ending foreign support for this program. But they are doing so in a way that encourages police corporation and sustains good programs. They did it frankly directly at our request.
The remaining problem is that the Catholics and the Protestants still haven't collaborated enough where prejudices have broken down. There are 5,700 projects that have been funded under the IFI, and I am glad the gentlewoman is withdrawing her amendment.
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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I rise to speak on behalf of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) and I am pleased that the gentlelady from Florida has withdrawn the amendment to eliminate it's funding.
The International Fund for Ireland is widely recognized for creating comprehensive programs that have helped promote peace and reconciliation in the north of Ireland and the border counties in the Republic of Ireland.
Twenty years ago the U.S. Congress, with overwhelming bi-partisan support, passed the Anglo-Irish Support Act of 1986. This landmark legislation created the means for the U.S. to contribute to the IFI--a Fund established by the Irish and British governments to promote economic development and peace in Northern Ireland. The Fund receives support from the United States, EU, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. it's been a most effective way for the international community to help end the terrible war raging in Northern Ireland.
Four U.S. Presidents and 10 Congresses have endorsed the efforts of the IFI. At the joint hearing I held this March--the eleventh I have convened on the peace process in Northern Ireland--U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Ambassador Mitchell Reiss strongly praised the outstanding work being done by the IFI, and urged continued support for it.
Since the inception of the IFI, the United States has contributed nearly $460 million and the results have been remarkable. As of 2004, the IFI has created nearly 38,000 direct jobs, and 18,000 indirect ones. In the 1990s Northern Ireland's GDP increased 53 percent, employment increased 17 percent and unemployment fell by 40 percent. Eighty percent of these investments have been in disadvantaged areas. The IFI has contributed to over 5,700 projects in Northern Ireland and the bordering counties of the Republic of Ireland and has provided 17,000 young people from cross-community areas with jobs. This is a tangible success in our struggle to end the conditions of despair and hopelessness which are the breeding grounds for terrorism.
Earlier in this Congress, and also in the 108th Congress, the House passed my legislation (H.R. 2601 and H.R. 1208 respectively) reauthorizing the program at more than $20 million and urging the Fund to shift its focus from primarily economic programs to those that have a greater emphasis on peace and reconciliation.
I am pleased to say, the Fund has responded. This year they released a Strategic Framework of Action 2006-2010 which strongly emphasizes cross community and reconciliation programs. The strategic plan also puts in place an exit strategy in which the Fund will wind down its reliance on international support. With this strategic plan in place, we cannot falter on our commitment. We are near to lasting peace in Ireland, but this is no time to falter in our efforts or rest on our laurels.
Much remains to be done as Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahem has said, ``The next five years will be vital to ensure a lasting legacy for the Fund and for 25 years of international engagement with the peace process. ..... Once again the United States has demonstrated the importance of its relationship with Ireland and of our efforts to bring the peace process to a conclusion.'' Among the most important work it is doing now, in response to urgent requests from this Congress, are programs that enhance relations between the police and the communities they serve and promote human rights training for police. Without our continued funding, it will be near impossible for the IFI to do this vital work for lasting peace and finish the work it has begun.
As IFI Chairman Rooney has stated, ``(The Appropriation Committee's) recommendation is a real vote of confidence in the young people and communities which benefit from the programs of the IFI. These programs address the root causes of conflict in our society: economic and social disadvantage, sectarianism and marginalisation. With a contribution of this level (i.e., $10.8 million) we can continue to target the areas of greatest need and ensure the goals we set ourselves. ..... The goodwill and support of the American people will be critical to our efforts. I would like to thank the many friends of Ireland in Congress for their continued generosity.''
Now is not the time for the United States to pull the plug on our support for this successful peace and reconciliation program; such a move would have a dramatic impact on programs that emphasize reconciliation among school children and young adults. The IFI has developed its own exist strategy enabling a thoughtful transition to self-reliant cross-community and social advancement. It is a good strategy and one that deserves our support until the end.
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