Unionists clash over funding for Orange Halls in Mid-Ulster

Mid Ulster MLA Sandra Overend.
Mid Ulster MLA Sandra Overend.

Sandra Overend and Ian McCrea have become embroiled in a heated war of words which was sparked by comments made by the DUP man in the Assembly when discussing the 2015-16 Budget.

Mrs Overend, who was not present in the Assembly Chamber when the comments were made, released a statement on Tuesday hitting out at Mr McCrea saying he ‘prefers to focus on childish political games.’

DUP MLA Ian McCrea

DUP MLA Ian McCrea

When speaking in the Assembly, Mr McCrea called on Mrs Overend and her party to clarify their position following the UUP’s amendment to the motion.

The DUP MLA said: “During the debate, I called upon Sandra Overend and her party colleagues to clarify why her party decided to vote against a budget that would see additional funding of £65 million to Education, £5 million to Regional Development for town bus services and other roads maintenance, additional funding to the Health Service and not forgetting the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment who received a 3.5% increase, which includes £1 million for the events fund.”

In response to the comments made by Mr McCrea, Mrs Overend said: “I was disgusted that Ian McCrea used his speech during the Assembly debate on the budget to attack myself and my party for having the temerity to oppose the Sinn Fein/DUP carve up that is the 2015-16 Budget.

“To his discredit, Mr McCrea attempted to portray this [the amendment] as opposition to money already allocated from the Social Investment Fund, including that which has gone to Orange Halls across Mid-Ulster. Of course this is not the case. Such funding is extremely welcome.

“My Ulster Unionist colleagues on Cookstown and Magherafelt councils have worked extremely hard to ensure that the Ballymaguigan, Castledawson, Coagh, Lisnamorrow, and Kennedy’s Orange Halls received funding, and I congratulate all those involved on their efforts, as the improvements will make a huge difference.

“Our concern is how long the process of administering this funding takes.

“The Ulster Unionist Party made the perfectly logical argument that, at a time when budgetary pressures are being felt across all departments, it is sensible to ensure that all available resources are targeted at the points of greatest need, where they can make a real positive impact rather than being held at the centre and going unspent.

“Whilst Mr McCrea prefers to focus on childish political games, the Ulster Unionist Party will continue to focus on delivering for our constituents, and doing what’s right for Northern Ireland.”

Responding to Mrs Overend’s statement, Mr McCrea said: “Sandra Overend is once again demonstrating her inability to grasp how the budgetary process works in the Assembly.

“She claims that she supports the £1.4m that OFMDFM will invest in Mid Ulster through the Social Investment Fund, but last week voted for that money to be redistributed to other departments, most notably the one held by her own party.

“She claims that she still supports these projects but at the same time is calling for the money to be redistributed. It doesn’t take a financial genius to work out that if you remove money from the SIF budget, you can’t spend money on SIF projects.

“People will be baffled that she thinks this is a reasonable approach to take.

“I am disappointed that the UUP put down the amendment to the budget last week that would have removed this funding from these important projects. I want to see unionist parties working together and delivering for the people we represent.”