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Unionist councillors refuse to support plans to provide £50,000 funding to mark 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday

Series of events being held in Derry next year


Unionist councillors are not supporting plans by Derry City and Strabane District Council to provide up to £50,000 to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the shootings in Derry during which 14 people were killed by British paratroopers while taking part in a civil rights demonstration in the city on January 30, 1972.

A special series of events are being organised in 2022 by the Bloody Sunday Trust to mark the anniversary.

The estimated cost of the events is £150,000 and the Trust has asked the local council to provide £50,000 of this proposed budget.

The request was discussed at a meeting today of the council's Business and Culture committee.

Eight councillors voted to approve the financial support but three unionist councillors voted against it.

Details of some of the events being planned for the anniversary were outlined at today's meeting.

The main event, called Beyond The Silence, will be held on Sunday, January 30, 2022.

It will be a 'large scale music/remembrance event' attracting, according to organisers, an estimated 7,000 people.

The event will begin in William Street at the same time the shooting began.

Relatives of those killed will then proceed to Guildhall Square along a route animated to commemorate the events of Bloody Sunday and its aftermath.

The Bloody Sunday Trust is also planning to hold an international conference in the Guildhall on June 15, 2022, which coincides with the anniversary of Saville report ruling into the events of Bloody Sunday.

Artist Robert Ballagh has also indicated to the Trust that he would be prepared to loan a commemorative artwork he has created about Bloody Sunday for display in the Guildhall for up to six months next year.

Outling his party's stance on the matter at today's meeting, DUP Alderman David Ramsey said they needed more information on how the anniversary events would be 'inclusive'.

“Based on our history in our city and legacy and how we move on as a people, I think it is very important that we how we can be inclusive because of the many families who suffered in this area,” he said.

“Not even including the Strabane area, we have over 200 (people) in the city alone who lost their lives during the Troubles of all walks of life

“We are going down the route of equality and we would obviously be interested in how an equality impact assessment would pan out in this.”

Alderman Ramsey said he would have no issue with 'in-kind advice' being provided by the council to the Bloody Sunday Trust as this was something that the council would do with other groups.

However, he said the proposed display of the Robert Ballagh painting in the Guildhall could also be an 'issue' given that the Guildhall is a 'neutral' space.

“The Bloody Sunday Trust are entitled to seek funding, advice and help but as a council corporate I think we have a lot more work to do. So, as this stands today, we will not be able to support the recommendations going forward," said Alderman Ramsey.

Ulster Unionist councillor Darren Guy said he had no problem with people marking the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

However, he did question the request for council funding of £50,000 for next year's events.

“I note it could be considered under the major events fund which has already been allocated for the current year which would then require additional monies from an already tight budget.”

Alderman Guy said that when any sum of funding is applied for it is 'scrutinised thoroughly' and added that the Bloody Sunday application 'should be no different'.

He proposed that the committee redirect the funding request to the 'appropriate working group' within the council to allow councillors to 'further discuss the requested amount and be given more detail of planned activities around the event'.

Sinn Fein councillor Sandra Duffy said her party would not be supporting Alderman Guy's proposal.

She said the report presented to the committee had provided details of all the anniversary events taking place next year, and added that she believed the request did not have to go to a working group to 'delay it any further'.

Aeidin McCarter, the council's Head of Culture, told councillors that at this stage they were being asked to approve that the application from the Bloody Sunday Trust goes forward to the council's major events fund with 'indicative' funding of £50,000.

“That would be assessed by officers and generally we would discuss those applications in the members' working group where there would be full details on the proposal.

“So there is a route and there is a proposal for detail to come into members.”

After Ms McCarter's comments, Alderman Guy said he was happy to withdraw his proposal.

The original proposal to provide financial support for the Bloody Sunday anniversary events was then put to a vote.

It was supported by five councillors from Sinn Fein and SDLP along with two independent councillors and People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin.

Two DUP councillors and one UUP councillor voted against it.


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