A NEW row has erupted at Moyle Council in Ballycastle over a grant to the ‘Antrim to Gaza’ group.
When the group was formed in recent years there was division at Moyle Council about backing for the organisation and now a fresh dispute has arisen over a new £150 grant.
A majority of councillors on the nationalist-controlled local authority backed the grant. Nationalist councillors said the group met the criteria for the grant and the Council could not pick and choose who they pay the grants to.
However, Unionist representatives were concerned that backing the ‘Antrim to Gaza’ group could be seen as one-sided as the conflict in the Middle East also involves Israel.
The Antrim to Gaza group was set up to bring aid to Gaza and the £150 grant was being sought for an information evening to “promote volunteering/encourage additional membership”. £100 of the money was due to go on “refreshments” and £50 for rent of premises for an expected 25 people.
TUV councillor Sharon McKillop said the Council needed to look at the criteria of their grants programme as it conflicted with Good Relations legislation as there are people in Moyle area who would disagree with the opinions expressed by the Antrim to Gaza group.
However, a majority of councillors rejected changing the grants scheme.
Cllr Randal McDonnell (Independent) was against the grant being given as he didn’t think paying for a venue and refreshments is “helping the community”.
Cllr Joan Baird (Ulster Unionist) said there are other international organisations like Red Cross doing aid work in Gaza and she was against the Council supporting a group “meddling in other people’s wars”.
Cllr Padraig McShane (Independent) was present at the meeting but declared an interest with the Antrim to Gaza group and did not speak. However, Cllr Colum Thompson (Sinn Fein) was disappointed with the “rhetoric” and said the group met the criteria and they should get the grant.