I welcome Deputies Calleary and Niamh Smyth raising this really important question for Northern Ireland and, indeed, the Border counties of Ireland as well. PEACE+ is a special new cross-Border EU co-operation programme which will combine the existing PEACE and INTERREG funding streams into one cohesive new programme for the 2021-27 period. The programme area covers Northern Ireland and counties Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo. There is also scope for co-operation outside the programme area.
The programme development process is being led by the special EU programmes body, SEUPB, which is a North-South implementation body jointly sponsored by my Department and the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland. A cross-sectoral programme development steering group, consisting of representatives of central and local government, as well as business, trade union, rural, equality, environment and community and voluntary sector groups, is supporting the development work of the SEUPB.
Since 2019, the SEUPB has been working closely with a wide range of stakeholders and Government Departments, North and South, to identify and develop areas of potential cross-Border co-operation for the new programme. This included an initial public consultation between December 2019 and February 2020, with 16 public events across the region attended by 1,000 people, while 320 written submissions were received.
I am pleased to report that programme development for PEACE+ is now at a very advanced stage. The SEUPB has developed a draft programme with six themes which aim to foster peace and prosperity in the region. The draft programme is based on an indicative budget of €1 billion.
A further public consultation on this draft programme opened in March and will remain open to submissions until 12 May. I am encouraging all interested stakeholders to make their views on the draft programme known during this consultation period.