Council still withholding £65,000 from Pride festival over governance concerns

The Pride In Newry ' International UK & Ireland Pride 2019 festival takes place in Newry city centre from tomorrow with the main events on August 31
The Pride In Newry ' International UK & Ireland Pride 2019 festival takes place in Newry city centre from tomorrow with the main events on August 31
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Newry Mourne and Down District Council is still withholding £65,000 from an LGBT Pride festival, citing an ongoing council investigation and “governance related concerns”.

However, the major event is still going ahead as planned, although it is not clear how the apparent funding gap is being resolved. After considering the matter, the PSNI has said it will be taking no further action.

Earlier this month the News Letter reported that the PSNI was considering the case, after Newry Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) froze the second half of a £125,000 grant for the Pride In Newry – International UK & Ireland Pride 2019 over “governance-related concerns”.

NMDDC officials told councillors that no further funding would be released to organisers of the event. However, organisers said they had been pressing the council to specify its concerns for five weeks without clarification.

The 10-day event in Newry’s Albert Basin, planned to start on Thursday, is expecting 50,000 visitors, including revellers from Australia, Canada, Austria and New York.

Artists booked to perform include Steps’ lead singer Claire Richards, M People’s Heather Small, B*Witched, Finnish singer Saara Aalto, international Lady Gaga impersonator Donna Marie along with ‘Bradley Cooper’.

But during a closed session earlier this month, an NMDDC spokesman said, councillors agreed to freeze outstanding funding for the event, understood to be £65,000. The council has already provided £60,000 to organisers.

Asked for an update on the investigation this week, a council spokeswoman said: “A total of £60,000 has been paid to Newry Rainbow Community but, regrettably, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is not in a position to release any more funds at this time due to governance related concerns. The matter still remains under investigation.”

But Rory Rafferty, chairperson of Pride in Newry, said the festival was going ahead as planned, despite the funding row.

“Plans for our International Festival are continuing apace and our volunteers will bring £10 million of economic impact into our community over the period of the festival,” he told the News Letter.

The situation regarding the funding has “not materially changed” since the News Letter spoke with him at the start of the month, he added.

He previously told the News Letter that upon learning of the council’s “unsubstantiated” claims, the festival committee wrote “in robust terms and invited facts and evidence” but that the council had not yet provided “any evidence or facts on its claims to allow us to understand, to take advice and to respond with our position”.

Asked for an update on its review, a PSNI spokesman said that no further action will be taken by police at this time.