THE DUP’S Ian Paisley does not appear to be grateful for the first-class travel and accommodation enabling him to speak at Co-operation Ireland’s New York bash on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) last February. He claimed that he obliged organisers by attending after a “last-minute” invitation, but the guest list drawn up 15 days before the event lists him as a speaker.
If anyone should be peeved at Paisley’s ingratitude it is Tánaiste and foreign minister Simon Coveney. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) denied that it made any contribution to the New York conference and directed Goldhawk to Co-op Ireland.
Co-op Ireland shelled out €7,223 to keep Ian in the style to which he feels entitled for his 24-hour trip across the Atlantic. But Co-op Ireland is by far the most fortunate recipient of the Reconciliation Fund run by Coveney’s department, which in turn shells out many millions annually to deserving reconciliation entities.
Until 2018, the Reconciliation Fund donated €2.7m annually to various worthy bodies fostering peace and reconciliation across the sectarian divide etc. In the year 2017, ending just weeks before Paisley’s obliging expedition, DFAT gave Co-op Ireland €375,000, with similar sums in 2016 and 2018. The €375,000 donation was 14% of the entire reconciliation budget, dwarfing the average donation of €25,000 paid to the 100 plus groups.
The only organisation that received anything like Co-op Ireland is NICIE, the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, which received €79,132, just over a fifth of Co-op Ireland’s amount.
What must be galling for Coveney is that he flew economy on budget airline Norwegian Air. And the foreign minister was keynote speaker at the celebration of the GFA — an agreement that Paisley and his party have always denounced.