Belfast Telegraph

Mystery of 'missing' Ulster-Scots hall given £25,000 grant solved by Belfast Telegraph

By Brett Campbell

The mystery of a cultural group that had been given a £25,000 grant to upgrade a community hall that apparently didn't exist has been solved.

Confusion reigned after it was revealed that - according to Royal Mail's postal address file - Randalstown Ulster-Scots Cultural Society's address at 10 Portglenone Road, Randalstown doesn't exist.

The door numbers of properties on the road jump from six to 16 and run up to 230 - but there is no number 10.

The Belfast Telegraph visited the location and observed that the only building that stands between numbers six and 16 is Randalstown Memorial Orange Hall.

Sam Bell, who describes himself as a committee member for the Ulster-Scots group, was on the premises at the time and confirmed that the Orange Hall was indeed the elusive number 10 for which the grant application was approved.

"We have been receiving funding for the past 15 years and it's all legal and above board. It is fully constituted," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I'm not prepared to say anything more."

The Orange Order confirmed that the Randalstown Ulster-Scots Cultural Society currently holds the lease for their hall.

Long-term lease holders are eligible to apply for the funding.

A spokesperson for the Order said: "The group has been successful in securing funding from the Community Halls Scheme, administered by the Department for Communities, which will allow them to improve the property for community use."

In a statement issued earlier yesterday afternoon, Mr Bell said: "Randalstown Ulster-Scots Cultural Society is a properly constituted and long-standing community group, which has previously availed of public funding.

"In this instance, we have satisfied the necessary criteria and met fully the requirements of the scheme."

Earlier this month DUP minister Paul Givan was forced to defend the scheme when several nationalist politicians claimed that public funds were being disproportionately allocated to one section of the community.

It also emerged that the budget for the scheme has nearly quadrupled from £500,000 to £1.9m.

The grants of up to £25,000 are intended to allow community groups to renovate and upgrade facilities.

The Department for Communities has confirmed that the grant was approved for the Randalstown Ulster-Scots Cultural Society, which is based at the Orange Hall.

A spokesperson for the department insisted that best practice guidelines have been followed and rigorous checks were conducted before approving the grant.

"All Community Halls Capital Programme applications have and will be compliant with best practice guidelines which operate across all of the NICS and which safeguard the allocation of public monies," they said.

"Following initial desk assessment, those applications which progressed to letter of offer are being subjected to vigorous verification on issues such as necessary permissions and approvals, ownership, leases and quotations, prior to the issue of a final letter of offer."

The departmental spokesperson was adamant that procedures require staff to conduct verification visits and that all payments are made in compliance with robust standards.

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