THE UK Government has intervened to prevent an Irish band which opposes the Union from receiving a grant.

The Belfast-based rap group Kneecap had been approved for a £15,000 grant by an independent selection board, but the Tory government stepped in to prevent it going ahead.

A spokesperson for Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, claimed to “fully support freedom of speech,” but added: “It's hardly surprising that we don't want to hand out UK taxpayers' money to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself.”

Kneecap claimed in a statement that they'd been told their 2019 Farewell to the Union tour poster "pissed off the Tories". 

They are now taking legal action against the UK Government over its "unlawful" decision.

Badenoch’s department oversees the Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS), which looks to invest in UK-based talent with grants of up to £50,000 in order to develop the creative industry.

Representatives of Kneecap had applied for funding through the scheme, with a decision made by an independent panel from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

However, although the BPI panel opted to give the Belfast band funding, the Tory government prevented it.

In a statement, the BPI said it was "disappointed at the government's decision not to approve a grant to the band 'Kneecap' after our independent selection board had voted for it as part of the latest round of funding applications".

The BPI said it was the Tories’ "decision alone to decline the application made by Kneecap's representatives".

READ MORE: Tory Northern Ireland Secretary: My understanding of Unionism is at ‘GCSE level’

On Wednesday, Kneecap posted an image on Instagram saying “oppose censorship,” showing a person coloured like the Irish flag gagged by a Union flag.

The band further shared a statement which read: “We've just been informed that our application to the 'Music Export Growth Scheme' (MEGS) was independently approved signed off by selection board [sic].

“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!”

The band added: “Fair fucks the artists who got the funding.”

Later on Friday, legal firm Phoenix Law Belfast said that the band had instructed them to take action against the "unlawful" UK Government decision.

The firm wrote: "We have been instructed by @KNEECAPCEOL in respect of the recent decision by the Sec of State [Badenoch].

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

Kneecap have sparked controversy with songs such as “Get Your Brits Out”, the YouTube video for which features a cartoon seemingly of the late Queen, intermittently wearing only a bra.

A film called Kneecap, starring movie star Michael Fassbender and tracking how the band was formed, won an audience award after its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2024.

On Thursday, the UK Government announced that £1.6 million would be invested into the MEGS project.

Badenoch said: “I’m delighted we’re able to back more artists than ever before. I congratulate the successful acts and look forward to seeing them bang the drum for Britain across the globe.”