DUP Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said he warned Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy about funding the controversial pro-transgender charity Stonewall which has received almost £12,000 from Executive

The DUP revealed last night it had warned Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy about funding the controversial pro-transgender charity Stonewall nine months ago.

By Henry McDonald
Friday, 29th July 2022, 6:00 am

Gordon Lyons, DUP economy minister, said his warning that any decision to fund Stonewall should be taken by the full Stormont Executive was ignored.

The Department of Finance confirmed yesterday that it handed over close to £12,000 of public money to Stonewall between 2019 and this year.

It provided a breakdown of the payments to the LGBTQ+ charity with £6,685 granted in 2019/20 of which £2,500 was for membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme and £4,185 to pay for Stonewall training of civil service staff in Northern Ireland. In the financial year 2020/21 £2,500 was again spent on the Stonewall scheme and in 2021/22 an additional £2,500 was given to the charity, a Department of Finance spokesperson said.

Members of Stonewall arrive at the Guildhall Square. DER3519-130KM

They added: “We are committed to building a diverse and inclusive civil service that reflects the society we serve. The civil service, along with 900 other employers, is a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme. Stonewall is recognised for its work with, and training for, public and private sector employers in helping to create LGBTQ+ inclusive and working environments. It is one of a number of organisations with whom the civil service engages to support our wide ranging work on equality, diversity and inclusion.”

Mr Lyons said he had flagged up the controversies surrounding Stonewall to Mr Murphy, urging him to get Executive approval for any funding of the charity.

The DUP minister said: “There are well publicised concerns around this scheme, highlighted by the fact that organisations like the BBC, Channel 4, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have all withdrawn from the programme.

“I reminded the finance minister on November 15 last of his need to bring any such controversial issues to the Executive for consideration yet he failed to do so.”

Mr Lyons added: “Conor Murphy’s current comments about the lack of an Executive might carry more weight if he had demonstrated a willingness to respect the Executive when it was functioning.”

The loyalist activist who first raised the issue of funds for Stonewall through a series of Freedom of Information requests, Jamie Bryson, said the money should be returned and a commitment given that there can be no further funding without Executive authority.

Mr Bryson said: “We need the Department of Finance to come clean on precisely what Stonewall was being funded for. Does their diversity programme or training, including, for example, ‘checking’ civil service policies and the language used within them to make sure they satisfy Stonewall’s criteria?

“It seems a highly controversial organisation like Stonewall has been influencing public policy documents, and this raises a whole host of very serious concerns, and the Department of Finance cannot simply bury their heads in the sand and think this will blow over.”

He continued: “This really is extraordinary stuff. Elements of public policy have been subcontracted out to a highly controversial and partisan activist organisation like Stonewall. This is a subversion of democracy.

“Imagine, for just one moment, if for example the Orange Order were funded to check civil service policy against their objectives – there would be outrage.”

On the revelation that the DUP warned the Department of Finance over the funding of Stonewall nine months ago, he said: “This is significant and controversial because it means that pursuant to section 28A (10) of the 1998 Act the funding provided to Stonewall was unlawful without Executive authority.

“I would now call on the Department of Finance to seek to recoup this funding and give a public commitment that there will be no more funding of Stonewall without Executive approval.”

Stonewall was founded in the 1980s to campaign against Margaret Thatcher’s government’s clause 28 banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

It now exercises enormous influence over the way many businesses and even regional governments use language.

A podcast investigation fronted by the BBC’s Stephen Nolan found that on advice from Stonewall the Scottish government removed the word “mother” from its maternity leave policy.