Four days after a DUP minister reinstated a £200,000 grants scheme for marching bands – which had been suspended last year due to budget cuts (largely championed by the DUP!) – the DUP have slammed the BBC and Northern Ireland Screen for part-funding the documentary 66 Days about the hunger strike of Bobby Sands at a cost of £76,000.
Between 2012 and 2015 marching bands (the overwhelming majority of which are loyalist) received more than £500,000 under the Musical Instruments for Bands scheme. Nelson McCausland argued that, “Participation in the arts is one of the departmental priorities and this sector is right up there at the top as the largest community arts sector in Northern Ireland.”
Last week the new DUP Minister of the Communities, Paul Givan, who posed for photographs as he set alight an Eleventh Night bonfire, announced that he was reintroducing the grants scheme for marching bands. More DUP elected representatives issued statements but the best was from the MP for East Antrim.
“I’m sure other unionists, and even plenty of non-unionists, will agree with me. Do they really think this is a good way of spending public money, to keep on stirring the pot about the past?” said Sammy Wilson, forty eight hours after unionists celebrated a three hundred and twenty six year-old battle in which Protestant King William of Orange vanquished Catholic King James II over who should rule the English throne.