Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland's £10m letter to Glentoran 'misleading'

By MICHELLE SMYTH

A letter written to a local Premiership football team by a Stormont minister promising £10m funding to dig it out of financial difficulty was 'misleading', according to senior civil servants.

In January 2011, First Minister Peter Robinson and a mystery benefactor stepped in to try and rescue Glentoran Football Club in east Belfast from its financial difficulties.

Mr Robinson is allegedly said to have asked then Sports Minister Nelson McCausland some three months later to write a letter to the club's chairman, Terence Brannigan.

The letter written in April 2011 by Mr McCausland referenced an IFA proposal for the funding for a refurbished stadium at Glentoran's ground.

The minister apparently said that a £10m grant had been agreed by the Executive and was secure.

However, internal memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and written by senior civil servants from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure claim that Mr Nelson misled the club and that the funding had never been agreed.

"I do not believe the Executive were agreeing a specific allocation to Glentoran, as they had not been asked the question," one memo states.

Mr McCausland's successor as sports minister, Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin, also said that funding had not been agreed.

She said a strategy for the development of Northern Irish football is being pursued and that the Executive would not be in a position before this to allocate the funds.

"Any commitments of funding given in advance of the policy development could not be upheld," she told the BBC.

"DCAL is neither bound by, nor committed to, any notional or specific award of funding to any club's development plans at this stage," she added.

However, a DUP spokesman said Mr McCausland was simply stating a "number of facts" in the letter.

"How people interpreted the letter is a matter for them to explain.

"Details of the funding packages for the sports bodies were negotiated by ministers and a paper submitted to the Executive alongside a detailed discussion held at an Executive meeting.

"The civil servants, to whom you refer, were not present at the Executive meeting or during discussions between ministers," the spokesman added.

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