Belfast Telegraph

Feile an Phobail winding up petition 'cancelled,' High Court hears

The Wolfe Tones perform at Feile in the Falls Park, west Belfast on August 11th 2019 ( Photo by Kevin Scott )
The Wolfe Tones perform at Feile in the Falls Park, west Belfast on August 11th 2019 ( Photo by Kevin Scott )

By Alan Erwin

A winding up petition brought against a major west Belfast community festival appears set to be cancelled, the High Court has heard.

Proceedings were initiated against Feile an Phobail over an alleged rates bill for a building it once rented on a short-term basis.

But a judge was told on Thursday the organisation is exempt due to its status as a registered charity.

Feile an Phobail director Kevin Gamble said he has now been informed the petition will be "expunged".

Renowned for promoting Irish and international culture throughout its 31-year history, the festival faced a petition brought by the Department of Finance.

During the brief hearing Mr Gamble expressed surprise it had reached court, citing months of discussions with Land & Property Services.

"We are a registered charity and have always been exempt from rates," he said.

"We took a short-term lease out on a building and thought the same applied."

He added that those premises are now under completely different ownership.

A Crown solicitor said she did not have instructions at this stage to accept the charity status.

But she confirmed that a rates re-evaluation is to be carried out.

"It's likely there will be some type of adjustment," the lawyer added.

Based on those submissions, Master Kelly suggested the court action could now be "wiped out".

Adjourning proceedings for four weeks, she added: "It looks like its possible this is going to go away."

Following the hearing a spokesperson for Land & Property Services said: "We will now work closely with Feile an Phobail to resolve this matter."

After the hearing a spokesperson for Land & Property Services added: "In this case, the rateable value of this property meant that it was the occupier or tenant of the property who was liable for rates.

“Charitable Exemption can apply where a property is occupied by a charity and where the actual use of the premises is dedicated to the charitable objectives of that charity.

"Being a charity does not automatically mean you are entitled to exemption from rates. Land & Property Services requires proof of who is in occupation and what activities are taking place within the premises. It should not be assumed that an exemption will apply simply because the premises are occupied by a charity.

“LPS notes this case has been adjourned. We are working closely with Féile an Phobail to resolve this matter.”

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