Discriminatory Funding under threat: Ritchie’s legal advice

The BBC was tonight reporting the details of the conflicting legal opinions provided to Executive Ministers ahead of the decision by Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie, to halt funding to the CTI (not yet on website). In its 10:25pm bulletin, it reported the legal opinion upon which the Minister decided to act as stating that her move could be “robustly defended” and stated that the initial decision to proceed with funding for the CTI could be legally challenged on the basis that it was “for protestants” only.
The latter aspect of the legal advice provided to the Minister, and forming part of the basis upon which she acted, raises another interesting question: will the Minister move to halt funding for similar explicitly protestant only programmes; and if she doesn’t, is her legal advice informing her that she is vulnerable to legal challenge in the event that she doesn’t act in such a manner? What are the implications of this legal advice if the Minister attempts to simply re-allocate the £1 million CTI money to other initiatives exclusively in protestant areas?

  • Has anyone done an equality impact assessment on all the Irish language funding?

    Sometimes projects are just limited in scope to one community: does that make them inherently bad? Or is it only when they’re limited in scope to this particular community, Chris?

  • barnshee

    Good well done Margaret –now claw back all the funding for Roman Catholic areas

  • Frank Sinistra


    If the Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist only funding of the Community Conventions Development Company bothers you so much why don’t you have a word with your own Minister Murphy as his department has thrown cash at identical projects:


    I notice Mr Butler forgot to ask Minister Murphy how much his department had sunk into Prod only projects when he was tackling Minister Ritchie on the issue. I wonder why that was. Unaware that his party colleagues fund similar projects or just ignoring it?

    “Renewing Communities Programme

    Mr Paul Butler asked the Minister for Social Development if she will carry out a review of the Renewing Communities Funding Programme, in light of concerns about departmental funding through the programme. (AQW 461/07)Ms Ritchie: The Renewing Communities Programme is a programme of actions shared across seven Northern Ireland Departments and the Northern Ireland Office and initiated by the direct rule administration. My Department, DSD, is responsible for the overall co-ordination of the programme including the administration of the inter-departmental Delivery Team. DSD has begun the process of examining the actions for which we have the lead responsibility to ensure that they are properly fortified and are keen to discuss with other Departments how we might proceed beyond March 2008 when the funding will cease.
    Community Conventions Development Company

    Mr Paul Butler asked the Minister for Social Development how much money has been allocated to the Community Convention and Development Company and related conventions since their establishment. (AQW 462/07)Ms Ritchie: The Department for Social Development issued a Letter of Offer to the Community Conventions Development Company in January 2005 for £523k to deliver four community conventions by 31 December 2006. A further contract was in place until end May 2007 for £60,000. My Department is currently assessing an application from the Community Conventions Development Company for a further three years funding and has issued an interim contract for £20,000 pending a final decision by the end of June 2007.”

  • I think Chris may have uncovered an interesting aspect to this ‘game’. Perhaps we can now guess where the next judicial review is likely to come from. Yet as Frank hints, this could be a game of diminishing returns.

    Eyes down, look in!

  • Frank Sinistra


    If the JR is about sectarian PUL funding and the shinners try the ‘why did you keep funding it’ line they were attempting to use against Ritchie in the Assembly they’ll have to face a mirror charge against Murphy and his funding of PUL projects.

    IMO both of them are equally useless for continuing to give funding on the basis of religion, politics and identity over need on their watches.

    Though as Chris’ post and Butler’s questions show SF may just rush in their neglecting to research the topic and making themselves look completely ridiculous.

  • There’s also another point here though Frank. And it’s one residual one that’s going to still be there however this crisis pans out. What are our elected officials there to do? Govern, and make decisions. Or hunker down tightly in a bland defensive policy bunker and hope you don’t get hit by incoming legal restraints, or, lord forbid, incur sharp rebuke from an opponent who doesn’t approve.

    Ultimately, as I’ve written elsewhere: is this supposedly democratic institution capable of delivering any clear outcomes on any given subject, or it is rather a largely rhetorical device for keeping Northern Ireland’s famously troubled politics off the streets?

  • Briso

    Posted by Mick on Oct 18, 2007 @ 04:58 PM
    Ultimately, as I’ve written elsewhere: is this supposedly democratic institution capable of delivering any clear outcomes on any given subject, or it is rather a largely rhetorical device for keeping Northern Ireland’s famously troubled politics off the streets?

    Depends, doesn’t it, on whether Robbo is right and the St Andrews agreement allows him to put manners on any minister who doesn’t toe his line? Either ministers can act or they are subject to a stultifying mutual veto. We’ll know more soon enough…

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick and ‘Frank’

    The legal advice being provided to Margaret Ritchie, if accurate, would obviously have implications for funding provided on single identity/ discriminatory basis across all departments, though given that it has been sought and provided for the Social Development Minister, then obviously the question applies to her Department in the first instance.

    I wouldn’t be so pessimistic Mick on the potential of the Assembly/ Executive institutions. What we’re witnessing is the quite fascinating early days of the second launching of an almost unique democratic institution; it’s to be expected that things will take time to bed in all round.

    Those hard decisions, on all sides, will still be taken.

  • Rapunsel

    Hard decisions? What and when ?

    Those posters
    demanding funding be clawed back from catholic areas are missing the point! It was never allocated to those communities based on their has been quite disgraceful is that we have seen an acquiescent civil service, community and voluntary sector and political establishment accept the introduction of a funding programme that operates on purely sectarian grounds. As far as I know the funding is through DSD although some is adminuistered by DARD and DRD etc. The result has been the selective funding of protestant only organisations in mixed communities and surprise surprise the sleection of weak organisations to administer large sums of money following public tender despite competitivee bids submitted by genuine organsisations qith a proven ability to work across all areas on the basis of need. Sickening really and perhaps Margaret will now please tell us that the whole renewing communities programme will be scrapped