Miss Northern Ireland boss Alison Clarke tells of her relief after winning legal case against sponsor
Model agency managing director Alison Clarke has said she is "relieved and delighted" to have won a legal case against one of the main sponsors of her 2018 Miss Northern Ireland contest.
The former Miss Northern Ireland, married to former Open golf champion Darren Clarke, took a case at Belfast Small Claims Court.
Miss Clarke, whose company ACA Models has been running the annual beauty competition for two decades, was awarded the maximum £3,000 plus costs in a row over unpaid sponsorship money for last year's pageant from Co Armagh-based Insanity Tan.
She said: "Sometimes you have to make a business decision. It happens and it's disappointing and very stressful when it does.
"We have a small team, accounts and credit control to manage and unfortunately we had to go down the legal route due to unpaid invoices associated with the 2018 competition.
"I'm just delighted and relieved it's all over and we can get on with running the business, raising the profile of the Miss Northern Ireland contest and the models on our books and enjoying the summer.
"It's not an easy decision to take legal action, as anyone in business will tell you, and though there was more money owed than we have been awarded, we're pleased the Small Claims Court has awarded us the maximum amount it is able to, and that a counter-claim against ACA Models was dismissed."
Keady-based Insanity Tan was not involved in sponsorship for this year's Miss Northern Ireland contest, which was won by 20-year-old Lauren Leckey from Stoneyford, Co Antrim.
The company had been a main sponsor of the event, which sends the winner to compete for Northern Ireland in the prestigious Miss World contest, in 2017 and 2018.
In 1990 Alison Clarke single-handedly opened ACA Models, now the longest-running modelling and promotion agency in Northern Ireland, after starting organising Miss Northern Ireland in 1987.
Alison will be in Lahinch, Co Clare, next weekend to support husband Darren at the Dubai Irish Open, then it is Portrush for The Open from July 18-21.
She said: "There's a busy summer ahead and it's good to get what has been a very stressful period done and dusted.
"I have to thank the legal team at McAteer and Co for their support and advice, and now it's on with planning next year's Miss Northern Ireland and running the agency."
ACA Models helped launch the career of former Blue Peter presenter Zoe Salmon, who won Miss Northern Ireland in 1999.
Insanity Tan did not respond to requests for comment.
Gerry McBride, joint-managing director of Insanity Tan, said: “It was not an easy decision to withhold a part-payment of our sponsorship while we endeavoured, ultimately without success, to resolve our concerns with ACA Models. We always had every intention of paying, of course, but ACA Models filed a claim.”