Northern Ireland news

GAA has 'right to explanation' after only two clubs receive community hall grants

Former DUP ministers Arlene Foster and Paul Givan with Billy Thompson of Orange Community Network at Salterstown Orange Hall to announce the Community Halls Pilot Programme
Connla Young

A senior GAA official has said the inclusion of just two GAA clubs in a controversial £1.9m community halls funding scheme “seems perverse”.

Ulster secretary Brian McAvoy made the remarks in his annual report in advance of the 2018 Ulster Convention which is due to be held in Co Donegal next week.

The Community Halls Pilot Programme was launched by former first minister Arlene Foster and communities minister Paul Givan during a visit to an Orange hall in 2016.

While it had an initial budget of £500,000, the cost later spiralled to £1.9m.

The Irish News later revealed that 34 Orange halls and two Masonic halls were among the 90 successful applicants.

Just two GAA clubs received money, despite around 60 applications from clubs affiliated to the association.

In his report, Mr McAvoy said “eyebrows were raised when the list of successful applicants were announced”.

“Just two GAA clubs were successful,” he said.

“While accepting that the department failed to conduct an equality screening exercise prior to the launch of the ‘pilot' was unusual, it seems perverse that only two clubs from the largest community-based sporting organisation in the country should be successful.

“While in no way questioning the validity of the successful applicants, the GAA has a right to a plausible explanation as to why their units had a less than four per cent success rate under the pilot.”

The Co Down native also spoke of his concerns over Brexit and the impact it may have on the GAA.

“A ‘hard border' would have serious consequences for the GAA,” he said.

“Many of us will be familiar with the days of long queues at the border and any return to that would have significant consequences for the GAA, even with a continued Common Travel Area.”

The Department for Communities did not respond to requests for a comment.

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