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09th Feb 2024

Kneecap to launch legal proceedings after being blocked from funding by UK Government

Stephen Porzio


A spokesperson for the UK’s Business and Trade Secretary already confirmed the block.

Kneecap are set to launch legal proceedings after the UK Government confirmed it blocked the Irish language rap trio from receiving “significant” music funding.

On Thursday (8 February), just weeks after the Belfast group’s comedy movie – also titled Kneecap – premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and massive attention, the band tweeted: “We’ve been blocked from receiving significant music funding because a Tory Minister doesn’t like our art. F*** the Tories.”

The artwork in question is from 2019 and was created for Kneecap’s ‘Farewell to the Union’ tour.

Causing controversy upon its initial release, it sees cartoon figures resembling Arlene Foster and Boris Johnson strapped to a rocket on top of a bonfire.

It also features two smiling figures resembling Kneecap’s members Móglaí Bap and Mo Chara, one of whom is holding a petrol bomb.

Accompanying the tweet from the trio, the group shared the poster and a longer statement.

The latter reads: “We’ve just been informed that our application to the ‘Music Export Growth Scheme’ (MEGS) was independently approved and signed off by selection board.

“It was then blocked directly by the British Government who overruled the independent selection board.

“We’re told that our 2019 ‘Farewell to the Union’ tour poster pissed off the Tories.

“Once again the British government is trying to silence voices from West Belfast – once again it will fail!

“Fair f***s the artists who got the funding… Fight censorship”.

In a statement to JOE on Friday responding to Kneecap’s claims, a spokesperson for the UK’s Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch 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.”

The BBC has reported that the “significant music funding” amounted to £15,000.

Following the comment from Badenoch’s spokesperson, Belfast law firm Phoenix Law issued its own statement which reads: “We have been instructed by Kneecap 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. Our Darragh Mackin is instructed acting with Joe Brolly and Mr Ronan Lavery KC.”

Kneecap shared Phoenix Law’s tweet with the caption: “Our team has assembled,” and had previously teased the announcement, writing: “We suggest the ‘Crown’ Solicitors Office check their letterbox for post for Kemi Badenoch on Monday morning… C.E.A.R.T.A.”

Cearta is the Irish word for “rights”.

Following the Kneecap movie’s debut screening at Sundance, it was picked up by Sony Picture Classics, which has acquired all rights to the film for North America, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Middle East – meaning it should screen all over the world.

Despite being critically acclaimed – it currently holds a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score – Northern Ireland Screen faced criticism from some quarters for funding the movie, leading the NI screen agency to publicly defend the decision.

Described as a “raucous anti-establishment comedy”, the Kneecap film will be released in Irish and UK cinemas later in 2024.