Northern Ireland

Theresa Villiers called out over criticism of public funds for Kneecap film

 Kneecap: Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Próvaí
Kneecap received £1.6m in public funds for their self-titled semi-autobiographical film

A former secretary of state has been criticised after complaining about the use of public money to fund Irish language hip-hop group Kneecap’s debut film.

Theresa Villiers said up to £1.6 million of funds provided by Northern Ireland Screen and the National Lottery had been “squandered” on the west Belfast band’s self-titled semi-autobiographical account of their rise to fame, which last week premiered a Sundance Film Festival in the US.

The MP for Chipping Barnet, who served as secretary of state from 2012 to 2016, said the group’s project had received public money while “public services are under pressure in Northern Ireland because of recent rises in prices”.

“It would have been far better for this money to have been used to relieve those pressures rather than promote such a controversial group,” she told The Times.

Conservative MP Theresa Villiers (Yui Mok/PA)
Former secretary of state Theresa Villiers. PICTURE: YUI MOK/PA

In the same article, DUP MP Ian Paisley, his party’s culture spokesperson, was reported as being “appalled” that the film received taxpayer’s money.

He claimed Kneecap were “rewriting and glorifying” what he termed the “sectarian war of hate by the IRA”.

Posting on X, the band responded to Mr Paisley by saying: “You can inform the DUP that we will put on a private screening for them in Belfast, in an Orange lodge of their choice.

“We will send popcorn and fizzy drinks too, all on us. Grá mor [big love].”

West Belfast MLA Gerry Carroll defended his constituents and said Ms Villiers had “a cheek to lecture anyone on public services and price rises”.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll. PICTURE: CLIFF DONALDSON

“Art is supposed to draw opinion by its very nature, but people should pay no heed to the former secretary of state’s posturing,” he said.

“Britain’s ruling elite have no business condemning young people in areas like west Belfast, which were decimated by its military.”