Kennedy demands release of report into FAIR probe

Pacemaker Press Belfast 8-11-2011: 'Barry Halliday,Willie Frazer with Danny Kennedy and Samuel Morrison pictured at Stormont in Belfast.'Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 8-11-2011: 'Barry Halliday,Willie Frazer with Danny Kennedy and Samuel Morrison pictured at Stormont in Belfast.'Picture By: Arthur Allison.

DANNY KENNEDY last night led a delegation at Stormont to demand the release of a report on alleged wrongdoings by victims group FAIR.

The Special EU Projects Body (SEUPB) withdrew funding from Markethill group FAIR in July 2010, publicly alleging “major failures in the organisation’s ability to adhere to the conditions associated with its funding allocation”.

However, FAIR claims the body has never put any specific charges of wrongdoing in writing to it, despite passing a file of allegations against the group to the PSNI Serious Organised Crime Branch, which last week came to nothing.

Stormont minister Danny Kennedy last night led a delegation including representatives from Jim Nicholson MEP’s office, the TUV and FAIR to ask SEUPB to justify its actions, which FAIR say has brought the group to its knees financially.

After the meeting, Mr Kennedy told the News Letter: “It was a robust meeting and both sides have left to reflect on the discussions. FAIR has been offered a copy of the report about the SEUPB investigation into them on strict legal conditions.

“The matter has been left open for further discussions.”

For some nine months during the police investigation SEUPB declined to discuss Mr Kennedy’s concerns, citing the ongoing police investigation. Last week the PSNI revealed it found no issues of concern in the SEUPB file and the PPS said it would not be taking any action.

FAIR director Willie Frazer last night said: “What has SEUPB got to hide? Why all the secrecy?”

He added: “They cut off our funding 16 months ago and we have had to lay off 10 employees — why are they afraid of us openly discussing the reasons for this with the media?

“They want to claw back funding from us and we asked them, why?”

Mr Frazer said: “How can people write a report about you and say you can’t see it?”

The News Letter asked SEUPB why it has still not put specific charges to FAIR since it cut funding in July 2010.

A spokesman said: “Unfortunately, we have not received permission from the Department of Finance and Personnel to issue a further statement on this issue.”

A spokeswoman for the department of finance, headed by DUP minister Sammy Wilson, said last night that it was not in a position to comment.

In July former UUP leader Lord Empey asked the first minister’s office to explain why it privately tried to have criticism of the DUP removed from FAIR’s website.

The call came after the News Letter discovered that the first minister’s office had highlighted FAIR’s website to the Community Relations Council for intervention, via email. The News Letter discovered the email under the Freedom of Information Act.

A spokesman for OFMDFM responded to Lord Empey at the time: “All organisations in receipt of public funds are required to comply with conditions set out in contracts or letters of offer.

“Any potential breaches of these conditions are investigated as a matter of routine.”