Green Party Councillor Áine Groogan has slammed the attempt by Sinn Féin and the DUP to overturn the decision awarding £800,000 to Sólás

Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Áine Groogan has slammed the attempt by Sinn Féin and the DUP to overturn the decision awarding £800,000 to Sólás, a charity based in South Belfast that supports children and young people with special needs, under the Neighbourhood Regeneration Funding scheme.

“The proposal from Sinn Féin/DUP to strip over £775,000 from Sólás is utterly reprehensible and is one of the worst carve-ups I have seen in City Hall, which is really saying something. This is a neighbourhood regeneration fund, and from the outset it was said that the Area Working Groups would, rightly, choose the projects for their areas. Sinn Féin/DUP don’t like that they don’t control South Belfast and they’re taking that frustration out on a charity that works with some of the most vulnerable young people in our society. The majority of South Belfast Councillors made a decision based on their priorities for the area, and it is the height of disrespect that SF/DUP have sought to deny our mandate in the area.

We knew the funding available was limited, and that difficult decisions were going to have to be made. Every one of the projects put forward for South Belfast are great projects that deserve to be supported, but we simply couldn’t fund them all fully. We wanted to support Sólás given the extreme need that they have, and then divide the remaining money equally between the other worthwhile projects so we could assist them all getting off the ground. Sólás’ current facilities are not fit-for-purpose, they are working out of portacabins and hiring other facilities. They desperately need a purpose-built facility to help them continue to do the incredible work that they do with children and young people with autism and other additional needs and supporting their families. We all know the crisis that people with autism and special educational needs are facing, the waiting lists for a diagnosis, the difficulties getting statemented and the availability of appropriate supports. A charity like Sólás is a lifeline for so many families and this was an opportunity for Belfast City Council to recognise that & help support them in getting a proper building to continue their work. Instead, Sinn Féin/DUP have insulted them by saying it’s only worthy of £24,000. They need to get their priorities straight.

I will be proposing at Monday night’s Council meeting, along with councillors from across other political parties, that we reject the decision of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee to overturn the will of the South Belfast Area Working Group. SF/DUP need to examine their conscience and do the right thing on Monday night to support Sólás and the children and young people with additional needs that they work with.”