CC&G: Sinn Fein submit legal challenge on Tourism Events Recovery Fund decision
The Causeway Coast and Glens Sinn Féin team have signed and submitted a call-in on the decision taken by council to approve the allocation of the Tourism Events Recovery Fund, writes Gillian Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter.
Speaking about Sinn Féin’s decision to submit a legal challenge, Ballycastle Councillor Cara McShane, said: “The decision to award almost £400,000 on tourism events this year has been challenged on a number of grounds.
“Before ratifying the decision at a recent council meeting, it was evident that councillors did not have all the information to make a fully informed decision.
“A request to defer the decision on this non-competitive fund until all the information was available, was rejected. This decision has a potential impact on ratepayers of Causeway Coast and Glens Council and the council as a corporate body.
“By funding the core running costs of ‘not for profit’ groups, clarification was sought on whether we are creating a ‘quasi-partnership’ or ‘quasi-relationship’ between the council as an organisation and two limited companies benefitting from the scheme.
“In the interests of transparency and openness, the council has now been forced to seek a legal opinion on the matter. This is the right decision and something that should not have an immediate impact on those groups, but it should allow representatives to make a fully-informed decision which is in the interests of the public purse and all of the people who live in this council area.”
Councillors at the March Leisure & Development committee and the full council voted in favour of approving the funding to help sustain and protect nine events until 2022.
The Tourism Events Recovery Fund has allocated £100,000 to the SuperCup NI, £59,887 to the Coleraine & District Motor Club Ltd (NW200), Stendhal Festival in Limavady £99,000; Ballylough Living History £70,125, Coleraine & District Motor Club Ltd (NW200) £59,887 and Armoy Road Race £50, 550
The remaining £16,976 will be shared between the Heart of the Glens Festival, the Co Londonderry Agricultural Show, Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association and North Antrim Agricultural Show.
The North West 200 and SuperCupNI are two of the biggest sporting events in Northern Ireland bringing in thousands of visitors to the north coast and throughout the borough.
Official figures for the North West 200 in 2020 showed that the cancellation of the international road racing event due to the coronavirus pandemic was a £12m blow to the economy of Northern Ireland with the already hard hit hospitality and tourism industry feeling the blow. The event has been cancelled again this year due to ongoing restrictions.
The SuperCupNI, now one of the most prestigious youth football competitions in Europe, is still hoping to proceed later this year with teams coming from the UK and Ireland only.
The tournament has become one of Ireland’s premier sporting events and in 2019 it delivered £4.4 million to the Northern Irish economy. This directly generated £1.8 million for local accommodation providers with an increased footfall across the Causeway Coast & Glens area from both visitors and participants.
A second call-in on the same matter has also been signed and submitted by members of the Causeway SDLP Group, Alliance Councillor Chris McCaw and Independent Councillors Stepghanies Quigley, Padraig McShane and Angela Mulholland.
Their grounds for the ‘call-in’ were to allow for fully informed decision making; to allow the council to follow the rules on public expenditure and to avoid legal proceedings.
Local Democracy Reporter
Gillian Anderson , Local Democracy Reporting Service