Sports fund in jeopardy

Thursday, 31 May 2018

THE Council is to consider shelving a £750,000  fund aimed at helping sports clubs improve facilities.
The suspension of the Capital Grants Program recommended by a committee set up to find savings, prompted accusations of sectarianism from Sinn Féin because GAA clubs captured three quarters of cash allocated from last year's fund.
The Chronicle understands a bitter row flared up when its future was debated at a closed doors meeting of the Corporate Policy and Resources Committee earlier this month.
The efficiency sub-committee is recommending a suspension of the program for the year 2019/20.
While press were barred from the debate, official council minutes hint at the acrimony surrounding the debate.
They state: "The Chair voiced his disappointment at some of the comments made during the heated debate."
Among those who spoke against the suspension where Sinn Féin's Cara McShane.
The minutes also reveal that the DUP's Trevor Clarke spoke in support of the cost cutting plan.
It was Cllr Clarke who questioned the allocation of capital grant funding when awards were announced back in October 2017.
The biggest winners were Loughguile Shamrocks GAC with £294,000 earmarked for a new artificial pitch and St Matthews Drumsurn GAC which received £69,000.
Mr Clarke pointed out that 77 per cent of funding that year had been delivered to GAA clubs.
And he suggested that it was "concerning" that one side of the community was benefiting at the expense of the other.
In response a council officer told Cllr Clarke guidelines under which funds are allocated are subject to equality impact assessment.
"It's simply the case that clubs representing Gaelic groups are better prepared for this type of process."
Sinn Féin Councillor, Cara McShane now says the latest bid to freeze the fund seems based on "an inherent anti-GAA sentiment" within the council chamber and is nothing to do with saving money.
She told the Chronicle: "The reality is that over the past three years the GAA has been helping to meet and fill a gap in leisure and community provision.
“By proposing to take away the infrastructure fund, the unionist parties in Causeway Coast and Glens seem intent to continue to perpetuate an anti-Irish sentiment.
“I would hope that they reconsider this decision at the Full Council meeting and that common sense can be applied.
“Groups and organisations within our community need to feel that Council funding is applied equally and based on merit and in an inclusive manner across the whole Borough."
In response DUP man Trevor Clarke described the claims as "ludicrous."
“Councillor McShane's claim that suspension of the fund represents 'anti-Irish sentiment' reveals the Sinn Fein view that only one sporting code is entitled to support of this nature from Council.
“This is ludicrous. All sports in the Borough need help and are deserving of our support. I have called for a mature discussion on the matter, but any time a decision is taken with which republicans disagree, Sinn Fein representatives revert to puerile and aggressive debating tactics which divide the Chamber.
“In fact, less than 47 per cent of the fund has been allocated since its inception.
“This  presents an opportunity to redirect funds to address the capital priorities agreed by Council over a year ago."


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