Belfast rappers Kneecap threaten legal action over UK government ‘funding block’

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Belfast rappers Kneecap are threatening legal action over a decision by the UK government to block funding.

The funding had been allocated to the music group through an independent process before being refused.

The group said on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, on Friday: “We’ve just been informed that our application to the Music Export Growth Scheme was independently approved and signed off by selection board.

“It was then blocked directly by the British government who overruled the independent selection board.”

A spokesperson for UK business secretary Kemi Badenoch is reported to have said they did not want to give taxpayers’ money “to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself”.

The music group, who had a 2019 tour entitled ‘Farewell to the Union’, said that the decision effectively meant it was “blocked from receiving significant music funding because a Tory minister doesn’t like our art”.

SDLP leader and MP Colum Eastwood suggested the decision may not comply with the British government’s obligation to exercise power on the basis of parity of esteem for communities in Northern Ireland.

Mr Eastwood said: “It is highly irregular for a secretary of state to intervene to overturn the decision of an independent assessment board to award funding to an artist on the basis of their political aspirations.

“It would be unacceptable if the British government had instituted a policy of defunding groups because they support Irish Unity, Scottish Independence, Welsh Independence or any other change to the constitutional status quo.

“Worse, in the context of Northern Ireland it may represent a breach of the British government’s obligations under the treaty signed after the Good Friday Agreement which includes a commitment to exercise power on the basis of parity of esteem between communities in the north.

“Art is meant to be challenging. You don’t have to agree with an artist or group to understand the importance of funding creators who challenge the status quo and the establishment.

“I have submitted a number of parliamentary questions to establish what has happened here.

“If there has been a change of funding policy to make that more difficult then Kemi Badenoch needs to come clean about it.”