US billionaire Chuck Feeney has given £600,000 ($909,000) to the Northern Ireland Assembly to help MLAs improve their political skills.

Money from the donation will be spent on events to promote women in politics and courses to teach politicians how to become better communicators, write effective speeches, and manage online reputations.

It is the second time the assembly has received money from a charity trust set up by the Irish American philanthropist to assist “the development of political leadership” at Stormont, reports the BBC. Feeney's Atlantic Philanthropies has previously donated £400,000 to the assembly.

UKIP MLA David McNarry, speaking on BBC program "The View" said the money could be better spent elsewhere.

"It's not for me to say what Mr Feeney should do with his money. I appreciate the help that he has brought into Northern Ireland,” he said.

"I just think that somebody sometime should maybe rap his door and say: 'Do you actually think your money couldn't be used better?'

"If you can't write a speech and you can't make a speech, then you shouldn't be in the Northern Ireland Assembly."

A private company called the Northern Ireland Assembly Legislative Strengthening Trust (NIALST) has been set up to administer the fund. The program is called Politics Plus.

Coming to the defense of the program, one of the trustees of the trust, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, said: "Politics Plus has provided an opportunity for skills improvement.

"An opportunity for MLAs to cover a range of subjects which in other jurisdictions simply don't happen, or if they do happen they happen at the expense of public funds.

"We've been very fortunate to deliver that cash to allow the public at least not to be putting their hands in their pockets."

Said a spokesperson for Atlantic Philanthropies: "The over-arching objective of Atlantic's grant-making in Northern Ireland is to cement peace and contribute to building a more equitable society that protects rights and strengthens democracy.

"Recognizing the importance of political leadership to cementing the peace, Atlantic has provided support to Politics Plus to enable them to continue to provide independent, effective and creative programs for those involved in politics and public life."

 

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