Second group linked to Orange hall claims public cash

Randalstown Memorial Orange Hall
Connla Young

A SECOND ‘cultural group' based at a Co Antrim Orange hall has been awarded cash from the public purse.

Randalstown Cultural Awareness Association (RCAA) was recently allocated £4,000 through a small grants scheme operated by the Department for Communities.

The development comes weeks after the Irish News revealed another group, Randalstown Ulster Scots Cultural Society, received £25,000 through a community halls scheme managed by the same department while former DUP minister Paul Givan was in charge.

The Orange Order said the Ulster Scots group held the lease on Randalstown Memorial Orange Hall, although the group gave its address as Number 10, Porglenone Road, Randalstown.

It emerged last night that RCAA has also provided the same address to the department.

A spokeswoman for Royal Mail has previously said there is no listing on its “postal address file” for that address.

The £300,000 Small Capital Grant Programme was set up to help voluntary and community groups to purchase a range of equipment including IT, sporting, arts and crafts and catering equipment.

A spokesman for DfC said the programme “proved extremely popular” with 590 organisations applying for funding, resulting in 107 successful applications.

According to an RCAA Facebook page it has links with a local branch of Action for Community Transformation (ACT).

That group describes itself as “a transformation initiative which supports former combatants”.

RCAA says it was set up in 2007 “promote cultural awareness in the greater Randalstown area and further afield”.

SDLP assembly member John Dallat, who previously raised concerns about DfC grant schemes, said more questions need to be answered.

“It's an interesting post box address that Royal Mail are not aware of,” he said.

“I think the most recent disclosure makes it all the more important that we establish just what's going on.”

A spokeswoman for DfC has confirmed “Randalstown Memorial Orange Hall is used by a number of different community organisations”.

“The Department welcomes and encourages the multi use of community facilities by different organisations.

“Different organisations using the same facilities are entitled to apply to grant programmes as long as grant recipients are legally constituted and compliant with all funding programme requirements in line with our stringent NICS wide procedural guidelines.”

A spokesman for the Orange Order last night “queried why any application for funding was relevant to the fact the recipient utilises an Orange hall”.

The Order declined to confirm exactly how many groups use the hall.

"Orange halls are utilised by a variety of properly constituted community groups,” a spokesman said.

“Such groups are entitled, if they so desire, to apply for government and other methods of funding, subject to the normal verification processes.

“It is for the respective funder to determine if the necessary requirements are met."

Earlier this year concerns were raised after it emerged that the Community Halls Pilot Programme had pledged more than £104,000 to upgrade Orange halls across the north after applications for cash were made by other organisations describing themselves as Ulster Scots, cultural, educational and historical.

It then emerged that an additional £100,000 was also allocated to several community groups to carry out work at Orange halls.

The scheme's original budget of £500,000 has since quadrupled to £1.9m.

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