Belfast Telegraph

Ex-prisoner groups bid for £300k in grants

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

A row has erupted over proposals for Belfast City Council to give more than £300,000 to ex-prisoner groups.

Applications from Coiste, Tar Anall, Tar lsteach, Epic and Prisoner Area Network Group, which work with former loyalist and republican paramilitaries, are currently being considered.

Even though no decision has been made, concerns have been raised about the process used to allocate the money.

Michael Long of Alliance said: "There does not seem to be a proper criteria to deliver this money - it seems to be whoever sends in a letter first gets the money.

"The criteria seems to be very loose. It seems to be an ad hoc system at the minute."

The five groups have requested a share of an £800,000 underspend in the council's central grants unit.

Coiste wants £56,383; Tar Anall is seeking £54,660; Tar Isteach has asked for £50,000; Epic would like £75,120; and the Prisoners Area Network Group £80,165.

Consideration is also being given to awarding £90,036 to the Wave Trauma Centre, which works with Troubles victims.

Tim Attwood, who leads the SDLP group in Belfast City Council, said: "The SDLP has always said we have to have a proper process which is open and transparent when it comes to money.

"If funding is going to be given out then a set criteria should be established. It should not be first come, first served.

"But it is fortuitous that there is some money there."

Before money is handed over, funding applications have to be approved by the council's strategic policy and resources committee and then ratified by the full council.

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