Sinn Féin legal challenge to denial of access to Policy Development Grants
Sinn Fein Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking from Belfast High Court at the appeal hearing into the decision to deny Sinn Féin access to the policy development grants that are available to all other political parties with representation at Westminster has said that the criteria is 'tailor made to discriminate against Sinn Fein'.
Ms Gildernew said:
"Sinn Féin is contesting the discrimination against our party in the policy development grant scheme. The criteria, which govern the allocation of such grants, have been tailor made for that purpose. These criteria discriminate against both our party and our voters. We intend to continue to challenge all of this through the courts." ENDS
Note to editors
1. Political Parties with at least 2 MPs who have taken the Oath of Allegiance to the British Queen are allocated a Policy Development Grant (PDG) under Section 12 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000
2. The purpose of the PDG is to assist the party with the development of policies for inclusion in an election manifesto - the manifesto can be either for Westminster, Assembly or Council elections. PDGs arose from a report by the Neill Committee which recommended such grants - the Committee did not however set the criteria which now govern the allocation of these grants. The Neill committee envisaged the grants being available to those parties with necessary electoral support to have MPs elected.
3. The statutory requirement that only parties with elected MPs who take the 'oath' become eligible is clearly designed to preclude SF from receiving PDGs.
4. Article 10 of the ECHR provides: "everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and impart information and ideas without interference from public authority." The exclusion of Sinn Féin from the scheme is in contravention with the European Convention of Human Rights.
5. The money which would otherwise have gone to SF had they been 'eligible' for the grant under the legislation is distributed to other parties in the north who are eligible - SDLP, DUP and UUP. The SDLP, DUP and UUP each receive approximately £134,000 as a PDG.