A housing association-led Irish peacebuilding project has beaten its initial targets to break down racial and religious barriers.
The €1.1m Housing Association Integration Project (HAIP), funded by the EU’s Peace IV programme, has now engaged more than 1,700 tenants in community building activities – against a goal of 1,000.
HAIP was launched in July 2018 and resulted in a partnership of Northern Ireland’s four largest housing associations – Radius, Choice, Clanmil and Apex – as well as the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA), the Irish Council for Social Housing and Tides Training.
Its aim is to improve relationships between people across cultures and the two nations, and is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, a joint sponsor agency of the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland and Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
More than 300 people have been enrolled in training activities through HAIP, with nearly 100 achieving an OCN Level 2-accredited qualification in good relations.
Twelve neighbourhoods were also “twinned” through the HAIP to work on joint community projects.
First minister for Northern Ireland Arlene Foster said the initiative “will leave a lasting impact on the communities involved and our wider community” and congratulated NIFHA and its partners.
Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill said: “This fantastic project provided that opportunity on a North-South basis, enabling people from 40 neighbourhoods to engage with one another, learn about different cultures and traditions.”
The Republic of Ireland’s social protection minister Joe O’Brien echoed their praise.
John McPeake, chair of the HAIP steering committee and chair of NIFHA, said: “We have lived in a divided society for multiple generations but with the peace accord and Good Friday Agreement things have changed.
“I think of peace here like a fine piece of furniture with a thin veneer and the job of this programme was to build that up so people could become comfortable and break down barriers and understand more.
“This project is fundamentally about promoting good relations between communities, different religious groups, races and cultural backgrounds.”
Worth €270m, the Peace IV programme is aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border region of the Republic of Ireland.