Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Invest NI under fire for £4k spend at Van Morrison gig

Invest NI has come under fire from one MLA after it spent more than £4,000 on two tables for an exclusive concert by Van Morrison at the Culloden Hotel.

The concert - a fundraiser for the Lyric Theatre - was preceded by a champagne reception and included a five-course meal.

Last night a spokeswoman for Invest NI said it had invited "14 representatives from internationally owned companies" who were either "existing investors and/or have potential expansion projects".

The spokeswoman said: "Invest NI hosted two tables of 10 at the Van Morrison Lyric Theatre fundraiser on Monday, January 9. The total cost for the event was £4,285, inclusive of VAT.

"The opportunity to invite international guests to a showcase of a Northern Ireland legend helps enhance our relationships with these companies.

"We are also grateful for the participation of Minister (Arlene) Foster who hosted the tables."

TUV leader Jim Allister said the spending was an example of what seemed to be a "culture of squander".

"There's a place for this kind of hospitality but it has to be within reason. With the economic climate, spending £200 a plate on a concert seems wholly disproportionate."

He said that Invest NI's reasons for the dinner - enhancing relationships with companies and potential investors - was not justified.

"I'm not saying they should not be spending money on hospitality, but to spend on this scale in this manner at this time seems totally out of touch," he added.

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