Funding story: Atlantic Philanthropies

The foundation is supported by a millionaire who wants all his money spent on good causes before 2020.

"There are a lot of funders in Northern Ireland - we're just one of a number," says Martin O'Brien, programme director of the reconciliation and human rights programme at Atlantic Philanthropies. "But we're concerned that, because we have a peace process and we've had this highly visible agreement, some donors might think Northern Ireland is 'sorted'. Our view is that there's still a lot to be done here, and now's the time for investment in order to secure the peace."

Atlantic Philanthropies was founded by millionaire Charles Feeney, who invested his wealth in the foundation in 1984. Its only base in the UK is in Northern Ireland. Here, it donates high-level grants (more than £17m in 2006) to a relatively small number of invited organisations - unsolicited applications are not considered.

The Northern Ireland branch of this programme is managed locally. Both directors of the other two programmes that operate in Northern Ireland - the disadvantaged children and youth project, and an initiative to support older people - are based in New York. The foundation's headquarters is in Bermuda. Both the children's and older people's programmes have strong advocacy strands alongside themes of improving services and identifying evidence-based solutions that can be used as a basis for wider policy work.

Atlantic Philanthropies has also funded reconciliation and human rights work in Northern Ireland with former prisoners - from both sides of the conflict - and has worked to tackle punishment beatings at a time when this was a highly controversial subject.

"We still have a significant number of divided communities," says O'Brien. "People have been working for years to build better relationships, and we are involved in supporting this and encouraging peace-building plans. We're also involved in the area of human rights and, in particular, the provision of a bill of rights for Northern Ireland."

Feeney wants all his money spent by 2020; the last active grant-making round will be in 2016. "It focuses your mind in terms of what difference you're going to make," says O'Brien. "You have to identify the actual problems and be prepared to do something about them. That can take you into some edgy areas."

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus