It's been revealed that all the successful applicants to Newry, Mourne and Down Council's Tourism Events funding call only received around two thirds of the total funding they applied for despite the money being available. In some cases applicants received under 30% of what they applied for.

The funding call offered finances up to £15K for Tourism Events organised within the community and it had a budget of £192K.

Only £125K of this was offered to groups despite successful applicants applying for a total of £188K. Organisers of Iúr Cinn Fleadh the Newry festival of trad and folk music were offered £8K out of the £15K applied for.

Following a discussion at yesterday's Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee meeting, Councillor Pete Byrne has asked for a review into the process of allocating funding to Community Organised Festivals.

Iúr Cinn Fleadh which runs from 6-9 September 2018 applied for £15K to the Tourism Events funding call and received an offer of £8K. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Iúr Cinn Fleadh which runs from 6-9 September 2018 applied for £15K to the council's Tourism Events funding call and received an offer of £8K. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

"Given the hard-won battle for fairness for Community Organised Festivals, I was disappointed to find that applicants which were successful during the Tourism Events Call were not given the full amount of funding they were entitled to. In the first call, of all the successful applicants only 68% of the funding they applied for was paid out. Similarly, during the second call, only 74% of funding applied for was paid out to successful applicants.

"In December 2017, I asked for a breakdown of the application process and the criteria used for assessing applicants to the Tourism Events Fund. The criteria stated that financial assistance was dependent on the overall budget that was available, and the number of eligible applications received. The overall budget available to community groups was £192,000, but only £125,000 was paid out even though a total of £188,000 was applied for by successful applications."

The Slieve Gullion Councillor continued "It appears that after fighting for an equitable split of the funding pot for festivals, community groups are still not getting their fair share. After an in-depth discussion with Council officials, the Council has committed to looking again at the criteria used for allocating funding for festivals. What we need is a clear, open and transparent process for community groups to follow. This will ensure that community festivals will know what to expect in return when they clearly meet the stated criteria.

"We fought hard for the extra funding and the demand was there from community festivals, but we now must build public confidence in the application process. I will continue to fight for fairness in how we spend ratepayer’s money and ensure that the application process is fit for purpose in time for next years Events Call."

Council Enquiry asked Newry, Mourne and Down Council for a list of successful applicants and how much they got in May and got the response "Details of the funding grants offered to groups will be announced via a press release in the near future." A press release hasn't been issued to date.

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