A controversial move to allow Orange and AOH halls to de-rate The idea was the subject of constant campaigning throughout the life of the last Assembly, and there is likely to be a battle to take credit for the move between the UUP and the DUP. However it has been challenged by both the SDLP and Sinn Fein:
Hat-tip to our Unionist blogger Ambrose who is temporarily avoiding political stories in sensitivity to some of our nationalist readers.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP last night raised concerns about why the Orange institutions had been exempted while the GAA, which offers social facilities to tens of thousands of people across the north, was not.
On top of steep insurance charges Mr Dawson said rates bills were a “a major burden on the institution” and often accounted for the biggest single annual expense incurred by some lodges.
“A small country property could pay around £500, while a hall in a major town could be paying thousands,” he said. “The exemption will free-up resources to help with the upkeep of halls and property.”
But Sinn Fein assembly member Francie Molloy said the move was retrograde.
“Under Terence O’Neill’s Stormont, Orange halls were de-rated but that stopped when it was prorogued,” Mr Molly said. “At a time when business de-rating has ended, it’s a backward step to see the promotion of Orange halls in this way”.
Indeed Molloy argued:
“The Orange Order is seen as sectarian by many, yet cross-community centres don’t get a rates rebate – what is applied to one should be applied to all.”
Apparently, GAA clubs, along with other sporting clubs, can apply for a partial reduction in their rates bills for parts of their property under existing legislation.
Another hare that will run and run…