Council accused of Jubilee snub

DERRY City Council has been accused of ‘blatant hypocrisy’ over the handling of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

According to DUP Alderman Drew Thompson Derry City Council had the lowest number of groups applying for grant aid to stage events of anywhere in Northern Ireland, and had not instigated a single event to celebrate the 60-Year reign of the Sovereign.

“I raised this issue in the Council Chamber two months ago. I asked were they not doing anything for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and they looked at me blankly. I raised this very issue in front of a full council meeting in Magee,” the irate Alderman said.

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“My party raised it previously with individual officers prior to that meeting, but still nothing happened. In fact, they were more interested in the Olympic Torch coming to the city the same day.

“The feeling among the Protestant community is that it was left to the Protestant people and that Derry City Council did not want to do anything about the Jubilee,” he said.

He said he had asked for a pot of money to be set aside for those who did want to do something: “I appreciate that we have a Nationalist-led council, but 25 per cent of the community in this city are Protestants, and our culture and communities should be represented, after all, the council is happy enough to ensure other ethnic minority groupings are included.”

Mr Thompson continued: “It was actually an SDLP councillor who told me that there was a grant aid process and I have since been told that four groups in Londonderry applied for and got money through that process to stage events. A lot of people have difficulty filling out those sorts of forms and it may have put them off, because when you compare that to Belfast there were 112 groups there that got funding. I found out on Friday that Derry City Council was the lowest when it came to the numbers of groups getting funding to stage Jubilee events.”

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In a scorching condemnation, he continued: “When you think of the bids that were put in for the UK City of Culture and for the Big Flame event, everything was UK, UK, UK. UK was on everything, to the point the UK City of Culture bid referred to the South of Ireland as ‘our neighbours’ but, once we won the bid it seemed there was a concentrated effort to ensue that the UK was dropped. We are celebrating the Olympic Torch Run, which is UK-based too, yet the council is not doing a thing to acknowledge the Queen, who is the Head of State for the UK.

“To the Protestant people the £20,000 or whatever it was that the Council put up for Jubilee grants was nothing more than a token gesture. They have done absolutely nothing. It is blatant hypocrisy.”

A spokesperson for Derry City Council said that as part of its small grants system community and voluntary organizations across the city were encouraged to apply for funding for Jubilee celebration events.

Responding to questions posed last Friday, she said: “The Council received a lot of interest from the local community sector and a range of events are being organised across the city over the Jubilee weekend. The Council is hoping that communities will incorporate elements of the Big Flame Weekend, that has been organised over the Jubilee Weekend to welcome the Olympic Torch, in their celebrations.

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Asked if any attempt was made to invite the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh or any other member of the Royal family to the city during its term as UK City of Culture, the spokeswoman said: “In relation to inviting the Queen or any members of the Royal family to the city for the 2013 celebrations that would be a matter for the Culture Company.”

“In terms of promoting events and initiatives, the Council promotes all events that are organised and funded by the authority and is happy to assist in the promotion of events being organised by the community voluntary and private sector on request.”

The Council spokesperson added that “all elected members are aware of the events organized over the weekend and the promotion of the Big Flame Festival”.

She said details of some of the events organised through the Council’s grant aid system included Irish Street Community Centre, which staged a Kings and Queens day with crafts, barbecue, East Bank Flute Band performance, full swing entertainment on Monday; a senior citizen cross community Jubilee event at the Everglades Hotel yesterday, while Newbuildings Community Centre Women’s Group had organised a community parade and fun day over the weekend, and Caw Nelson Drive organized a series of events, including Jubilee bingo, a barbecue, a Jubilee Fun Day and a Big Lunch and picnic family event as well as a cross community tea dance..

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