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SDLP claims bias affects hotel grants

Deputy SDLP leader Seamus Mallon has demanded that an investigation into alleged bias in the allocation of grants to small hotels by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board be widened following fresh claims of favouritism.

The current investigation was sparked by Mallon’s allegations that data released by the Government in November demonstrated that the board had discriminated against Catholic areas in its management of a £10m scheme to develop small hotels.

The initiative to build and expand hotels, inns, self-catering facilities and bed-and-breakfast accommodation began in 1993 and was funded by the Treasury, plus European Union and US government aid programmes.

Mallon has asked Northern Ireland finance minister Paul Murphy, who is overseeing the investigation, to broaden the inquiry’s remit to other projects aiding the hotel industry, following new allegations from hotelkeepers. Mallon declined to give details of the allegations.

Mallon has also written to the European Commission and the International Fund for Ireland asking them to look into how their contributions have been spent by the board. The NITB denied it had been biased and said the allegations were “unfair and inaccurate”.

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