Northern Ireland

Community hall funding: Department publishes recipients

Paul Givan
Image caption "I refuse to be drawn into a political battle fought by republicans & nationalists as though it was 1690," said Mr Givan.

The Department for Communities has published a full list of recipients in a controversial £1.9m community hall grant scheme.

The list was published following a claims made by Sinn Féin and the SDLP that the scheme appeared to be directed to one side of the community.

The DUP Communities Minister Paul Givan launched the scheme at an Orange Hall in October alongside Arlene Foster.

Mr Givan rejected any suggestions of discrimination.

The funding was originally £500,000, but that figure has nearly quadrupled to £1.9m since the autumn.

Image caption Alex Maskey said the list was 'another example of blatant discrimination' by the DUP

'One community'

On Saturday, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said a public breakdown of recipients was "imperative", given that the scheme risked excluding sporting organisations, including the GAA.

Mr Eastwood said his party had concerns from the time that the fund was opened.

"It seemed, at that stage, that the criteria meant that GAA clubs could not apply," he said.

"We were worried that the minister was trying to look after one community, rather than the whole community."

On Sunday, MLA Alex Maskey claimed its recipients were primarily from the unionist community.

"This looks like yet another example of blatant discrimination and the DUP's contempt for the wider public," he said.

Mr Givan denied the claims saying the "scheme was open to all and made no distinction based on the community identity of the organisation".

He said the programme was "hugely oversubscribed" with more than 850 applications.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said DUP MLA Paul Givan needs 'to illustrate that he is a minister for everyone'

A Department for Communities spokesperson said: "A robust, transparent and accountable assessment process was followed, with all applications being scored against the stated criteria."

When it was originally launched, Mrs Foster said the money would be used to improve halls that were in disrepair or had been damaged - with priority given to those targeted in attacks.

'Minister for everyone'

At Christmas, Mr Givan cut funds to a scheme offering Irish language scholarships to young people. Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said the £50,000 cut was part of the reason for his resignation as deputy first minister.

Last week, Mr Givan said he had "identified the necessary funding to advance" the Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme. He also claimed his original decision was not "political".

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