SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan has asked why firms with substantial reserves were handed cash while other organisations and individuals received little support.
The Heritage Fund distributed £5.28m to different organisations on behalf of the Department for Communities.
Benefactors included Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic, which received a £1.63m grant to help “reopen and protect the future of its heritage”.
BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show reported that Hillsborough Castle also received over £500,000, and the National Trust got £324,500.
Titanic Belfast Ltd said that as a private operator it is not publicly funded and relies solely on revenue generated though ticket sales and events to operate and to maintain the heritage assets.
It added: “The decimation of international tourism, on which Titanic Belfast relies with 88% of visitors coming from outside of NI, saw the business’s income drop to zero overnight with the closure of Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic in March 2020.
“With no options for finding alternative ways to generate income, the impact of Covid was further exacerbated given that the attraction was coming out of the quietest part of the tourism calendar when cashflow and reserves were at their lowest and financial investment had been made in preparation for a bumper high season ahead.”
The company concluded by saying the funding provided “a lifeline” for Titanic Belfast’s recovery and reopening.
The Department for Communities said: “Reserves were taken in to account in determining individually tailored awards.
“All funding was disbursed through open competition requiring clear demonstration of need.
“All appropriate approvals and financial controls were put in place in relation to the Covid-19 Culture, Languages, Arts and Heritage Programme 2020/2021, including Department of Finance approval of the business case demonstrating value for money.
“The Heritage Recovery Fund formed part of this programme.”
However, Mr Durkan raised concerns about rules relating to Covid-19 support schemes designed and implemented by the Department for Communities and others.
He said the latest revelations that large organisations with “substantial reserves” may have received significant sums of money from the Heritage Recovery Fund will come as a “shock” to many organisations and individuals who did not receive support.
He added: “To ensure that the Covid-19 schemes represent value for money, the Audit Office should be invited to investigate the suite of support schemes implemented by the Executive over the last 18 months.”Tags: