Plans have been revealed for a £250,000 restoration of Derry’s war memorial.
However, a row has erupted after one local councillor described the monument in The Diamond as a ‘monstrosity’ and raised concerns over ratepayers having to foot the bulk of the bill for the project.
The figure emerged at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Environment and Regeneration Committee after the DUP had raised their own concerns about the appearance of the memorial in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
Speaking at the meeting, Tony Monaghan, Regeneration Manager with council, said that a survey was undertaken by council in April 2013 which revealed that the cost of restoring the mural would be £250,000.
He added that the restoration work was ‘highly specialised in nature’ and would include the installation of ‘anti-bird’ measures, a sonic system aimed at deterring birds from depositing droppings on the memorial.
Mr Monaghan said that work was underway to get an ‘updated cost’ in order to reflect the memorial’s ‘current condition’.
He added that council had made two funding applications, one to the Department of Social Development (DSD) and another to the War Memorials Trust (WMT).
Mr Monaghan told the meeting that the DSD had told council ‘that they might be in a position to support the environmental improvement works to the value of £75,000’, while the War Memorials Trust could possibly contribute £30,000.
He added that given any potential funding, which was as yet unconfirmed, would only amount to £97, 500, and council faced a shortfall of £150,000 to carry out the restoration.
“The nature of the project is such that it cannot be scaled down and phasing would not be a viable option,” he added.
Commenting, the independent councillor Gary Donnelly said raised concerns that local ratepayers would be footing the bill for a memorial which he described as a ‘monstrosity’ in the Diamond.
“I’m not sure how ratepayers of the city would feel about this,” he said.
“I feel we would be better off spending the money on something positive for the future.”
He added that the memorial ‘glorified senseless slaughter in imperialist wars’, adding that he was unsure of the memorial was ‘appropriate’ for the city centre, given it depicted a ‘graphic scene of a soldier bayonetting someone on the ground’.
Responding, DUP Alderman Graham Warke, who had called for a report to be brought back on the restoration of the memorial at a previous meeting, said: “To be honest, Councillor Donnelly is talking rubbish.”
He added that the memorial was an ‘absolute mess’ and ‘covered in moss’, and that the ‘the fact was that it was a bloody war’ but we have to remember these men and women’.
Alderman Warke continued that almost half of those people commemorated by the memorial were ‘Roman Catholic’.
The Waterside Sinn Fein councillor Christopher Jackson said that he found the cost of the restoration ‘staggering’, and suggested that the matter be brought before Council's Capital Programme for consideration, and ‘see if it was something they could prioritise’.
The proposal was accepted by councillors.
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