Tory move to silence nationalist rap band
Tory move to silence nationalist rap band


The London government is being challenged over an overtly political decision to withhold music industry funding for Belfast rappers Kneecap.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have both criticised Tory Minister Kemi Badenoch following her decision to ‘defund’ the rap artists under the Music Export Growth Scheme.

A previous £15,000 grant approval had been received by the west Belfast group, which recently won the audience award at the high-profile Sundance Film Festival in the USA.

It believed the Tory government is trying to silence them after it blocked their funding.

In a statement on Thursday, the band said: “We’ve just been informed that our application to the Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS) was independently approved and signed off by selection board.

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

“We’re told that our 2019 ‘Farewell to the Union’ Tour poster p****d off the Tories.”

It added: “Once again the British government is trying to silence voices from West Belfast - once again it will fail! Fair f***s to the artists who got the funding.”

The statement ended with the term “fight censorship”.

Badenoch has said they did not want to hand taxpayers’ money to nationalists in the north of Ireland, describing them as “people that oppose the United Kingdom itself”.

But that may be a “breach” of the Good Friday Agreement, the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said.

He said the comment “requires urgent clarification and may not comply with the British government’s obligation to exercise power on the basis of parity of esteem for communities in Northern Ireland”.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

In a post on X, Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey also expressed “deep concern” over reports that the decision was taken to refuse Kneecap funding “due to the nature of their musical content and political outlook”.

“This blatant political interference can only be perceived as a form of censorship and an attack on freedom of expression,” he wrote.

“Many of my constituents have raised this issue with me. I whole-heartedly share their concerns. It beggars belief as to why there is an independent panel to make decisions when your department can interfere and overrule.”

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