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DUP's Givan claims critics of hall grants 'being sectarian'

By Sophie Inge

A DUP minister accused of discrimination after 35 Orange lodges and loyalist bands received funding from a £2m Stormont scheme has accused his critics of "narrow-minded sectarianism".

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey had accused Communities Minister Paul Givan of "yet another example of blatant discrimination and the DUP's contempt for the wider public".

The grants scheme for 'community halls' originally totalled £500,000, but has since quadrupled to £1.9m that has gone to 90 groups.

Only two GAA clubs appear to have benefited.

After nationalists branded the handout sectarian, Mr Givan last night issued a statement defending his distribution of the money.

"This scheme was open to all and made no distinction based on the community identity of the organisation," he said.

"The Community Halls Scheme was established to address the need that exists to improve these important facilities in our communities and the successful organisations come from all sections of our society."

Mr Givan added that he had not been involved in the assessment process and was only advised of the successful organisations after they had been notified.

"The disgraceful attempts by political opponents to assassinate my character will be seen for the narrow-minded sectarianism that it is," he continued.

"Is all the investment into our roads, hospitals and schools now going to be viewed through the sectarian prism of green, white and gold politics, rather than on the basis of need?

"As the election campaign starts I refuse to be drawn into a political battle fought by republicans and nationalists as though it was 1690, but will continue to put our people first and act on behalf of everyone."

Earlier, Mr Maskey had said there was "mounting concern about why Paul Givan's community hall grants scheme had soared from half a million pounds to almost two million pounds".

"Clearly these public funds have been significantly directed at one section of the community. This is a flagrant abuse of public money and this minister's contempt for the public knows no bounds," the West Belfast MLA added.

The SDLP has also expressed concerns over the scheme, with party leader Colm Eastwood claiming that the criteria for the scheme appeared to exclude GAA clubs from applying when it was first opened.

It's just the latest row involving Mr Givan, who at Christmas cut funds to the Liofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme, which offers Irish language scholarships to young people.

The minister was branded an "ignoramus" by Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness later said the cut was part of the reason for his resignation.

But Mr Givan later backtracked, tweeting last Thursday that he had "identified the necessary funding to advance" the scheme.

Where Paul Givan’s £1.9m in community funding went

Tildarg True Blues 632 £24,700; Ballyhanny Hall RBP £25k; Tullyconnaught Orange Hall £24,355; Ballynarrig Bible & Crown Defenders LOL 650 £27,120; Camgart Hall/Clabby Lily of the Valley LOL 387 £27,500; Artnagullion Rural Education & Cultural Soc £7,939.20; Cumann Gaelach Leath Chathail £24,500; Rathfriland Baptist £25k; St Tida’s CoI Parish Hall Bellaghy £30,840; Sixmilecross Orange Order £25,080; Tanvally LOL 683; Churchill Comm Devp Assoc £29,200; Dervock LOL 514 ££27,753; Cromie Mem Comm Hall £25k; Cloghfern Hall £19,776; Glasmullagh LOL 446 £7,248; St Elizabeth’s Lady’s Guild £13,650; Crann Go Beatha £25,696; Clantilew LOL 101 £25k;  Clonduff GAC £10,500; Crosscollyer St Evangelical Presby £25,206; St Colman’s Hall £34,090; Aughnacloy Masonic Hall House Cmtte £24,800; Bleary Farmers Hall £33k; Erin’s Own GAC Cargin £30,600; CAD Developments Ltd (t/a Glenaden Arena) £25k; First Stewartstown Presbyterian £25k; Randalstown Ulster Scots Soc £25k; Rathfriland Elim £25k: Annaghmore Purple Star LOL 2033 £8,375; Be Safe Be Well £30,730: Servite Trust NI £20,360; Bessbrook Dist LOL 11 £24,322; Bleary Crimson Star LOL 12 £23,150; Syeria Star of Freedom LOL 11 £9,716; Lagfield Youth Hall £24,210; Dundonald PV LOL 1056  £23k; Ballylisk & Mullavilly Comm Assoc £25k; Cloghan Crimson Star LOL 54 £20k; Feaugh Pipe Band £25k; Waringsford LOL 545 £24,880; Ballycastle Parish £25k; Coagh Masonic Hall £25k; Mulnahorn LOL 1644 £24,768; Presbyterian Church in Ireland - Douglas Cong £30k; Scrabo Presb £25k; Albany Presb £24,300; Ballintoy Old School Restoration Cmtte £26,150; Ballyboley Orange Lodge £8,070; Ballymageough Rural Dvp Assoc £21,960; Ballymoney Church of God £24,482; Cavanapole Hist Group £24,876; Ballyquin LOL 645 £11,600; 1st Rathfriland Scouts; Ballymartin LOL 1456 £19,860; Brookeborough Dist LOL 3 £28,800; Lily of the North LOL 249 £24,533; Lislea Comm Assc £24,442; Rankin Cultural Assoc £21,250; Searce LOL 225 £28k; St Saviour True Blues £16k; AO Hibs Div 112 £21,480; Brocagh & Dist Regeneration £19,200; Clough Comm Assoc £4,738; Coneen/Coonian Comm Assoc £6,265; St Michael the Archangel Parish £25k; Tamalght O’Crilly LOL 223 £5,726; 231 Cookstown AO Hibs £25k; Kilcooley Womens Centre £25k; Red Star on Drumcree RBP  £25k; St Marks Par Church, Augher £17,436; St Matthews Par Church £23k; St Saviour’s Par Connor £16k; Greencastle Comm Assoc £22,125; Blackskull LOL 125 £23,280; Coaching4Christ £11,250: Col Verners True Blues LOL 162 £24,700; Mourne All Blacks ABC £30k; St Marks (CoI) £6,490: Sheepbridge Heritage Soc £27,230: Action Rural Regen £25k; Ballyknockan Orange Hall £25k; St Katherine’s Par, Belfast £25,200; Ballycraigy Temperance LOL 537 £7,250; Cordrain B&C Defenders LOL 53 £24,996; Garvery LOL 448 £24,950; Kilmore Comm Assoc £25k; Mountjoy Utd FC £25k; Millisle & Ballycopeland Presbyt £18,554.

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