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Kennedy and Ni Chuilin in name-calling dispute

By Noel McAdam

Published 14/01/2016

Caral Ni Chuilin
Caral Ni Chuilin
Danny Kennedy

Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has insisted she has no problem saying "Northern Ireland" - but it is not a term she uses.

In a tetchy exchange in the Assembly, the Sinn Fein minister clashed with former Executive colleague Danny Kennedy and other unionists.

Mr Kennedy claimed that her use of the term "North of Ireland" could open the door for local funding going to sports clubs over the border.

The Ulster Unionist MLA asked Ms Ni Chuilin whether the use of the term "the North of Ireland" in a consultation document on new football stadiums could mean certain clubs in the Irish Republic will be eligible to apply for funding.

"If the term Northern Ireland had been used instead of 'North of Ireland' then there would be no problem. Quite clearly only clubs with grounds located in Northern Ireland would then be eligible, but the Sinn Fein doctrine of refusing to use the name of Northern Ireland creates the potential for unintended consequences," he claimed.

But the minister said there was no issue. "To be considered for funding, venues must be located in counties Armagh, Antrim, Derry, Down, Fermanagh or Tyrone," she said.

Welcoming what he called her "confession", Mr Kennedy added: "I plead with the minister to stop refusing to use the term 'Northern Ireland' simply for a political reason and for no good reason at all.

"You are a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, and you are expected to perform on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland. It is time that you and your party realised that."

Ms Ni Chuilin responded: "I have absolutely nothing to confess. I have no problem saying 'Northern Ireland' - it is absolutely not a term that I use. I think that, given his role in the Executive and various departments, asking a question like that really shows that this is like back-room boy stuff. Seriously, it is really sad."

The DUP's William Humphrey said his party would "watch closely" the issue of football funding going outside the jurisdiction and urged Ms Ni Chuilin to congratulate Northern Ireland national manager Michael O'Neill on his coach of the year award at the Sports Personality of the Year ceremony.

Ms Ni Chuilin hit back: "Any hyperbole around clubs in the 26 counties being able to access that needs to be nipped in the bud. If people are peddling that, they are doing it for political reasons, and it is silly.

"I, too, congratulate Michael O'Neill and, indeed, the rest of the team. I think that he has been an amazing manager. He is an amazing person. I think that the team has done very well and I wish him well for the future.

"In relation to you watching closely whether any clubs access the money: fine, knock yourself out. The criteria is very clear."

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