Kearney raises concerns over community hall scheme
Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has said further revelations about the operation of the DUP's Community Halls scheme now raise more concerns and also pose major questions about the role of institutionalised bigotry within the political process.
The South Antrim MLA said:
"I am deeply concerned about the administration of the Community Halls scheme which falls under the responsibility of the Department for Communities. It has been suggested that this scheme was in place to help groups which would not apply for funding from the Lottery scheme, reportedly because of a ‘faith based’ reluctance to benefit from gambling.
"This explanation simply does not stack up particularly following the revelations that Orange lodges and other groups which had supposedly not applied for Lottery funding did in fact do so.
"It now transpires that the Randalstown Ulster Scots Cultural Society will receive £8,500 in Big Lottery Funding for improvements to Randalstown Memorial Orange Hall despite already receiving £25,000 from the Community Halls scheme.
“Under a DUP Minister the Community Halls scheme budget has almost quadrupled from £500,000 to £1.9million. By contrast the same Minister was responsible for cynically stopping the £50k Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary scheme before last Christmas. Now the department itself has since admitted that funding awards from the Community Halls scheme have been allocated disproportionately in favour of applications from one section of the community. In fact only two GACs have successfully qualified for financial assistance.
"This situation suggests that the Community Halls scheme has been operated on a differential basis with no regard for objective need criteria or equality. It is a further example of the DUP's cavalier approach to management of public finances.
“Other major questions arise. The restoration of public confidence in the political process and reestablishment of the political institutions will depend upon transparency, fairness and equality in the governance of all public funds and decision making. There is no place for any form of institutionalised bigotry in terms of public policy or government."