North Belfast cannot afford to miss out on the opportunity to benefit from a new £80million government investment fund designed to reduce poverty in the North’s most deprived communities.

The warning from Manus Maguire of the Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum, came after a 12-week consultation on the Stormont Executive’s Social Investment Fund was launched this week.

The fund aims to reduce poverty, unemployment and physical deterioration by encouraging communities, statutory agencies, business and departments to work together in a co-ordinated way.

Manus Maguire said North Belfast has missed out on investment before and that groups like his need to ensure they make their voice heard in the consultation.

“During the economic boom and rebalance after peace North Belfast didn’t benefit one iota,” he said. “Some of the big organisations are quite adept at drawing down government money but it is the communities that need it most, particularly in North Belfast.”

North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly encouraged all groups to get involved with the consultation.

“North Belfast wards have for generations been at the top of the deprivation indices and we must do all we can to end that cycle. The programme is shaped to help the communities most in need on an equal and objective basis. Everyone's views are welcome and during the coming 12 weeks residents and community groups should take this unique opportunity to have your say on the future of your area. By working together and focusing our resources we can make a lasting impact on tackling those communities that have remained deprived for generations.”

The consultation closes at 5pm on Friday 23 December 2011 and copies of the consultation document can be accessed through the OFMDFM website or by contacting OFMDFM.