Extra funding for Gay Pride... from a DUP ministry
Belfast's annual Gay Pride Festival was boosted by a grant increase from an incoming DUP minister's department.
Festival organisers were yesterday offered a £5,110 allocation for this year's celebrations - £2,110 more than the 2006 funding.
The financial support has been made available by an offshoot of the Department of Culture, which will have DUP MLA Edwin Poots as its Minister from next week.
Mr Poots is a member of the Free Presbyterian Church and has been a vociferous opponent of recent gay rights legislation in Northern Ireland.
He signalled yesterday that he will not intervene over the Belfast Gay Pride funding, despite strong opposition from within his Church.
While stressing that his views on same sex relationships were well known, the incoming minister pointed to equality legislation provisions.
"There is little point making decisions that will end up being overturned in a court of law," he stated.
Mr Poots also said that he would not have a direct input on such grant-aid issues.
The £5,110 funding has been offered to Gay Pride organisers by the Department of Culture- financed Community Festivals Fund (CFF).
This Fund is administered by the Northern Ireland Events Company, a sponsorship and promotional body bankrolled by the Department.
In a statement confirming this year's grant decision, CFF said: "The group has been made an offer of funding in recognition of a strong application which meets CFF criteria.
"In particular, CFF noted the group's efforts to develop and improve the event and its success in generating income from the event."
The Department of Culture has stated that Events Company funding decisions are taken "at arm's length from government".
Prominent Free Presbyterian Church minister, the Rev David McIlveen, yesterday vowed to picket the Gay Pride parade through Belfast again this year.
He also denounced the provision of grant-aid for the festival.
"We could never countenance the use of public money whenever there are so many other demands for public money in more legitimate areas," he said.
"We would appeal for the funding to be withdrawn."
The clergyman declined to comment on the fact that this year's funding would be from the budget of a DUP minister's department.
Another Free Presbyterian Minister, the Rev Ivan Foster, has used the issue to renew his criticism of the party's power sharing agreement with Sinn Fein.
This year's Belfast Gay Pride Festival is due to run from July 28 to August 4, with a parade through the city taking place on the final day.