Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has defended her decision not to open a fund for celebrations to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee.
Describing her department’s resources as “extremely limited”, she said she will “continue to prioritise the resources towards protecting the most vulnerable”.
“Therefore I have no plans to introduce a grant scheme related to the Queen’s platinum jubilee. However community organisations may be able to apply to existing funding schemes for financial support towards programmes or activities,” she told MLAs.
DUP MLA Joanne Bunting said the date was an “opportunity for community cohesion”, pointing out it is “international and historic, and so is bigger than local government”.
“Why will she not establish a fund?” Ms Bunting asked.
TUV MLA Jim Allister accused Ms Hargey of “not facing the plurality” of her title, and urged her to “take off her republican blinkers”.
Ms Hargey responded by saying there are many events across the community that could be marked, but she has to manage all requests within the budget she has amid a fuel crisis and pressure around homelessness.
“I have to prioritise where I put resources,” she told MLAs.
Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd said he respects the Queen, saying she has “played a positive role in the peace process and reconciliation on the island of Ireland”.
But he said the priority is to support those “most in need”.
Ms Hargey responded: “The Queen has played a positive role and is a very important figure to a large section of our community, and I have no doubt, funding or no funding, they are going to mark the occasion.
“My priority in terms of funding, and I have been consistent in this, is to protect the most vulnerable within our communities.”