TUV leader Jim Allister said that although the investment has been widely regarded as “benevolence from the European Union,” the UK providing around 85% of the £978 million (€1.14bn).
“Today, dressed up as generous benevolence from the EU, £730m of UK funding of Peace Plus, with minimal contributions from ROI and the EU, was announced in the presence of our colonial overlord from Brussels and interloper Varadkar – six of whose counties also benefit from this predominantly British largesse,” Mr Allister said.
“Though over the years some peace funding expenditure has been very dubious, with ex-prisoners groups benefitting substantially, it is striking that at the very time HMG tells us there is no more money for public services, three quarters of a billion can be conjured up for Peace Plus,” he added.
Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken made a similar point.
“While there may be a perception that this funding is coming from the largesse of the EU, and 15% is indeed welcome, it must not detract from the fact that the majority of the funding is coming from our own nation," he said.
In his speech at the launch of the new funding initiative, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said Peace Plus “will focus on local community regeneration and transformation, and on building thriving and peaceful communities, especially in less affluent or more rural areas,” and added: “I am pleased to see that there will also be specific and tailored support for victims and survivors, and for children and young people”.
The DUP said that MP Carla Lockhart did not snub a major Peace Plus funding announcement in Belfast due to the presence of the Irish premier.
Ms Lockhart had been on the guest list to attend the event at New Forge on Monday morning, along with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris and Mr Sefcovic.
A DUP spokesperson told the PA news agency: “Carla Lockhart was unable to attend the event due to other commitments.”