The Chair of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), Dr Adrian Johnston, says the Londonderry Bands Forum supports its objectives of building a sustainable peace and economic prosperity in deprived areas.
He told an audience in St Columb’s Park House: “We recognise that the project here supports the objectives that we laid out for the Peace Impact Programme (PIP) but it has the potential to have a stabilising impact on young people, who might otherwise be involved in anti-social behaviour or unlawful activities.
“A lot of these unlawful activities can be born out of emotive issues around culture and identity and we’ve seen how this has been used in the past. So, it’s important to say that whilst this is a new project it links into the wider work we’re trying to do as a fund.”
Dr Johnston said the Forum had already contributed to the Haass process last year and was willing to take on a greater role, not only in Londonderry but across Northern Ireland.
He also said the Forum allowed young people a path into inspiring cultural activity.
“The reality is so many young people today face unemployment challenges, violence, suicide, isolation, disaffection, sectarianism. All these things still affect young people within our communities. These are all very complex issues and they equally affect young people. And, as I said earlier, this can be manipulated.
“And sadly, we’ve seen parading has been used over the past number of years and we’re reminded regularly that community tensions can erupt into further violence, because there’s a minority of people who don’t want to move this going forward and they want to retract back to the old days of violence and destruction.
“This project has the potential, and I’m sure it will happen, to ensure this doesn’t happen. Projects like this open up new paths for young people to take control of their lives and to shape better futures for their communities and for future generations,”
He said young band members were dispelling the myth band culture is about politics, stating: “It’s about music and cultural traditions and this project is, I think, at this moment in time, positively chancing that misconception.”