Northern Ireland

Kneecap: Blocking of UK government funding for Belfast rappers may be 'breach' of Good Friday Agreement, says SDLP

 Kneecap: Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Próvaí
Kneecap: Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Próvaí

The blocking of UK government funding for Belfast rappers Kneecap may be a “breach” of the Good Friday Agreement, the SDLP leader has said.

Colum Eastwood hit at the decision by the British government to over-rule a previous £15,000 grant approval for the west Belfast group.

The SDLP MP has submitted questions to UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch following her decision to defund the rap artists under the Music Export Growth Scheme.

A spokesperson for Ms Badenoch has said they did not want to hand taxpayers’ money “to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself”.

But Mr Eastwood said the comment “requires urgent clarification and may not comply with the British government’s obligation to exercise power on the basis of parity of esteem for communities in Northern Ireland”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called on people to reject racism.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

“It is highly irregular for a secretary of state to intervene to overturn the decision of an independent assessment board to award funding to an artist on the basis of their political aspirations,” he said.

“It would be unacceptable if the British government had instituted a policy of defunding groups because they support Irish unity, Scottish independence, Welsh independence or any other change to the constitutional status quo.

“Worse, in the context of Northern Ireland it may represent a breach of the British government’s obligations under the treaty signed after the Good Friday Agreement which includes a commitment to exercise power on the basis of parity of esteem between communities in the north.

“Art is meant to be challenging.

“You don’t have to agree with an artist or group to understand the importance of funding creators who challenge the status quo and the establishment.

“I have submitted a number of parliamentary questions to establish what has happened here.

“If there has been a change of funding policy to make that more difficult then Kemi Badenoch needs to come clean about it.”