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Joy for Hammersmith centre, but is well running dry?

The announcement had been on the cards for some time, but when it was officially revealed last week that the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith would receive a grant for £550,000 to rebuild the facility, its staff, management and users breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The funding, along with private investment including money already fund-raised, should secure the venue's future once the building's freehold can be attained.

It's not yet clear if the money will also contribute to the centre's operational costs for 2012.

Despite Ireland's economic turmoil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged that funding for Irish centres in Britain is still a priority for his Government.

He told the Irish Independent recently: "It is difficult (to guarantee funding for Irish centres abroad) but we contributed over €7m last year for facilities throughout Britain.

"Even within the financial constraints that we have we want to see that strong support continue because of the quality of the work that is being done."

The Emigrant Support Programme (EPS), to which Irish centres and organisations abroad can apply for funding, is being cut by just £1m (€1.3m) this year, backing up Mr Kenny's commitment.

But as Ireland aims to satisfy the terms of its bail-out and create more notches to tighten the national belt, the future for overseas funding must be uncertain.

It's hard to imagine public backing at home for such spending abroad if the downward economic spiral continues, however deserving the recipients are. Over the last four years the Irish Government has made grants worth almost £30m (€36m) to Irish groups in Britain via the Dion/EPS schemes.

Such levels of support are unlikely to continue over the next four years.

Applications are now being sought for this year's round of EPS grants with the closing date being Wednesday, February 2012.

For more information visit www.dfa.ie

Irish Independent