DUP ‘embarrassed’ by council centenary plan

Officers in a Northern Ireland council have been told to go back to the drawing board amid a row over commemorating the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland.

Thursday, 12th November 2020, 6:00 am
Councillors clashed at a committee meeting at Craigavon Civic Centre

Tempers flared during an Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council committee meeting as council officers were told they should be “embarrassed” at the contents of a report on the centenary celebration.

The remark was made by DUP Alderman Stephen Moutray at a meeting of council’s economic development and regeneration committee.

The paper on the matter presented to members included a draft programme outline and recommended a budget allocation of £60,000 for the commemorations.

However, DUP group leader Mark Baxter told the meeting he was “disappointed” in the report and upon reading it, had to check if he had missed meetings of the working group discussing this matter.

“This paper has come back totally metamorphosed from what was discussed at the working group,” said Mr Baxter.

“Where is any information about community grants? Where is the mention of the fireworks display and where is the mention of any legacy projects?

“We had agreed that this should be about a celebration of local figures, yet there is no mention of Lord Craigavon in the report.

“To me, what is contained in this report does not convey the mood of the meeting.”

Mr Baxter also made clear he was unhappy with the proposal to allocate £60,000 to the commemorations.

“Put it up to £120,000, it is key that we get the community involved,” said Mr Baxter.

He proposed that rather than accept the report’s recommendations, the working group meet again and officers draw up a new report that “reflects what members actually said in the working group”.

Council’s head of tourism, arts and culture, Brian Johnston, said he was sorry if members felt previous discussions were not “articulated” in the report.

Mr Moutray added: “We are the second biggest council area in Northern Ireland and there is a lot to be proud of over the last 100 years.

“I really think the officers should be embarrassed by this report.

“It does not reflect what happened in the meeting and I support councillor Baxter’s proposal entirely.”

Mr Baxter than called for a recorded vote on his proposal which was passed by 11 votes to eight.