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Belfast rap trio Kneecap to take legal action against government after music funding blocked



The news follows the west Belfast band’s accusations that the government has made efforts to “silence” them after it blocked a British Phonographic Industry (BPI) funding award.

The trio revealed that they had been blocked from getting a £15,000 grant, which they said was approved by an independent selection board, but was then “overruled” by the government.

Kemi Badenoch’s spokesperson said they did not want to hand taxpayers’ money “to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself”.

Taking to X/Twitter on Friday afternoon, Phoenix Law stated: “We have been instructed by @KNEECAPCEOL in respect of the recent decision by the Sec of State.

“She has today been put on notice that her decision is unlawful, and legal proceedings will follow.”

Lawyers Darragh Mackin and Ronan Lavery will act for Kneecap, alongside former Derry GAA star and barrister, Joe Brolly.

The business secretary’s department has been approached by this newspaper for further comment regarding the new legal action.

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has also submitted questions to Ms Badenoch following her decision to defund Kneecap under the Music Export Growth Scheme.

Mr Eastwood said that a comment from a department spokesperson claiming that funding should not be awarded to groups who ‘oppose the UK’ requires urgent clarification and may not comply with the Government’s obligation to exercise power on the basis of parity of esteem for communities in Northern Ireland.

The Foyle MP 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.”

Kneecap: Critics rave over film but unionists rage over its funding

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Meanwhile, Ian Paisley has written to Ms Badenoch in support of her decision to defund Kneecap.

It was revealed on the BBC’s Nolan Show on Friday morning that the DUP MP had written to Ms Badenoch to ask that the group not receive the funding.

Kneecap’s representatives had applied for the funding under the Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS), a government-backed initiative which offers grants of up to £50,000 to UK-registered music companies to promote artists in overseas markets.

The MEGS grant applications are considered by an independent panel from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), but the scheme is overseen by the Department for Business and Trade and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.


In a statement, the BPI said it was “disappointed” at the government’s decision not to approve the grant to Kneecap but clarified that it was the government’s decision “alone” to decline the application.

“While it is for government to speak to its rationale for making this particular decision, we firmly believe in the importance of freedom of expression, including artistic expression, and look forward to discussing further with government how any decisions involving potentially controversial matters will be handled in future,” a spokesperson for BPI added.

On Thursday, Ms Badenoch announced grants of £1.6m via the MEGs scheme to “boost British music exports”.

In a statement, the Cabinet minister said: “I congratulate the successful acts and look forward to seeing them bang the drum for Britain across the globe.”

A spokesperson for the Business and Trade Secretary said: “We fully support freedom of speech, but it’s hardly surprising that we don’t want to hand out UK taxpayers’ money to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself.”

Next month, the group is set to go on tour in the US and Canada, following a sold out North American tour last autumn.

It comes after their success at the recent Sundance Film Festival, where they premiered their self-titled film and won the audience award at the prestigious event.

Meanwhile on Thursday – the same day the band were defunded – another Lego set was released of the band.

Irish company Dublin Bricks released the set, entitled ‘Kneecap Live’, which shows the three band members on stage.

Last year, the company released their first Kneecap set – where the three members were displayed in front of a flaming police Land Rover and included a petrol bomb accessory – which sold out in a matter of days.

Although not associated with Lego itself, Dublin Bricks only uses official parts in builds and sets.

The DUP and Ian Paisley has been approached for comment.

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