How to make a fortune through peace

Kevin Myers reports on the finances of the Peace People. By Kevin Myers


"Now is it possible", askeddPeace Leader Ciaran MeeKeown last December" "to explain finally and satisfacctorily the nature of the finances of the Peace People?" Well, for anyone who wanted to know the truth, he said, yes it was. Last August, the Peace People's accounttants, who presumably wanted to know the truth, had this to say: "Because of the way in which the community came into existence and beecause of the nature of its activities, it was unable in this first financial year to formallise its accounting procedures in such a way that we could verify its income and exxpenditure by reference to receipts and supporting documents. "

In truth, the accountants expressed their belief that the Peace People's accounts reeflected the true state of the Peace community's affairs. The next accounts, which are expected next month, will have to be more informative.

But there is not, as some Republicans have' suggested, a cynical embezzlement operration by which the peace money is being channelled into lucrative quick - yield, off-shore investment. There is, however, complexity and confusion, and that does not help the Peace People's image.

There are at the moment three separate finan cial stru cctures within the Peace Moveement, exluding that is, local accounts kept by branch groups. There is the Peace People's Community, which represents the broad moveement; the Peace People Trust, a registered charity which disburses money to comm'munity _ groups; and there is Peace by Peace Ltd., which at the moment is responsible for assisting industrial and co-operative development.

The salaries bill for the peace movement comes out at £1400 per month, for a paid office staff of five han average of £70 a week per person. That includes the national insurance conntributions - so clearly, none of the office staff is wallowwing in luxury. Ciaran McKeown, who works fullltime for the Peace Moveement, is paid nothing. The only income he has derived directly as a consequence of the. ,Peace Movement is a £4000 grant awarded to him last year by the Norwegian Government to prepare a thesis of the structural problems of orgaruzing a peace movement. He is in a position to tell them.

Only two people are connspicuously wealthier as a result of the Peace Movement, and they are Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams. According to McKeown's own account, it was on his initiative that they decided to split the £80,000 between the two of them and not donate part of it to the Movement, dividing the rest of the money between the three of them. No matter whose decision it was, it has had appalling consequences for the Peace Movement.> The award, if measured over an expected four-year life span for the Peace Movement, will bring the two women £10,000 per annum; much the same as the Taoiseach earns after tax. Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams are amongst the best paid executives in Ireland.

The basis of the Peace People's affluence is the Norwegian contribution of over £210,000. This was received by Peace by Peace Ltd., which then, for tax reasons, lent it to the Peace People Charitable Trust. When the Company wants money, it borrows it back from the Trust, and the two of them thus play ping-pong with the Norwegian Kroner.

The third Peace People financial structure, the Community of the Peace People, is supposedly selff"financing, but recently borrowed £6,500 from Peace by Peace Ltd.

A fourth Peace People account will be opened shortly, the Community Inndustrial Agency, which is to have £10,000 capital. On the board of this company will be the former SD LP politician, Paddy Devlin; the former UD A. leader Glenn Barr; the Projects manager for the Peace by Peace Ltd., Peter McLachlan, and the former North Belfast UDA commander, David Payne, who was appointed to his present position as organnizer for loyalist co-ops in North Belfast by the UDA commander Andie Tyrie. Why the UDA' should 'be represented in a Peace People enterprise is far from clear.

The purpose of the agency will be to provide manageement! consultancy for budding co-ops and local enterprises. Peter McLachlan, who has an impressive mannagement record, will be the vital figure in the operation.

This work is already being done through Peace by Peace Ltd. But it is not easy to say what the Peace People have done with their money, although much of it has apparently gone in grants to small businesses. Most of the money used for business purposes has been lent, not granted. According to Peter McLachlan, £31,600 is owed on such loans. But he could not say how much had been originally lent (he estimated about £50,000), nor how many projects had received financial assistance.

Some Peace People exxpenditure is easily accounted for. The leaky house on the Lisbum Road (the Moveement's headquarters) cost £35,000. Further renovations have cost another £5,000.

The house still leaks. Money has been lent in varying amounts to co-ops, but for security reasons the Peace People are reluctant to say who got what. All will have to be revealed shortly. The annual reports for the trustees of the charity and the board of the company will, Ciaran McKeown is confident, silence those who have been mutterring about secret accounts in the Bahamas.

Some projects have reasonnably detailed accounts. The resettlement of people trying to escape the influence of the paramilitaries had, by the end of January, cost £8,427. The weekly newspaper had cost £6,916. A marketing exercise in Germany and Norway for Northern Ireland goods cost £1,613. The recent and conntroversial "Know your Rights" pamphlets cost some £700. A North Belfast interrdenominational group reeceived £2,000. And so it goes on - lots of small projects whose success "or fa ilure is hardly noticed by the majority of people in the North, but which are considered by the Peace People the bricks of peace.

Peter Me Lachlan reckons that they have spent some £80,000 in alL A.nd money is still coming in. Last month an £11,000 cheque arrived from Europe. And there is money in German accounts which will only be released when Peace People Ltd. have convinced the German auditors that it will be spent constructively.

Not all the money that the Peace People have raised has gone to them. Betty Williams last year spent four days in Canada raising money, which, she discovered, was sent instead to the Glencree Foundation whose representtative was quicker off the mark at the meetings. The Peace People say that they have not received a penny from Tony Reilly's New York-based 'Fund for Peace and Reconciliation', nor from the American National Council of Churches fund, 'Reconciliation in Ireland.'

Nobody in the Peace Movement has profited from Peace People money. There are too many straight and virtuous souls in the Moveement's upper echelons for any pilfering of petty cash to have occurred. McKeown himself reckons that his involvement has cost him £11,000. But the Peace Movement has failed to let people know what it has been doing. And whatever their reasons, the fact' that Corrigan and Williams kept their No.bel Prize money has caused more distaste than years of good work can remove.