DERRY City and Strabane District council have rejected a proposal to include Strabane in the city’s bid for European Capital of Culture (ECoC).
Independent councillor Paul Gallagher made the proposal at a recent council meeting. In a recorded vote the proposal was defeated 24-12, with Independents and SDLP councillors voting in favour of the inclusion.
“The people of Strabane are also paying rates, they shouldn’t disenfranchise them,” said Cllr Gallagher. “I firmly believe that it is very important, the people in Strabane are paying rates for this bid, yet we will get no benefit from it if the name isn’t included.”
Earlier in April, members of the council’s business and community committee gave their approval to progress to stage one of the bid for ECoC 2023, as part of a joint submission with Belfast City Council.
Members also gave their approval to allocate £300,000 from the council budget towards progressing the joint bid, which is to be submitted to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in October 2017.
A spokesperson for the council said, “The council is committed to developing a brand that is strong, inclusive and easily communicated and the bid itself, will be reflective of the entire council area.
“The council is confident that following Derry success as the first UK City of Culture in 2013, it is in a good position to put forward a strong bid that will benefit the city and district area, Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole. Our bid for ECoC further enhances the regional positions of both city regions in the strategic contexts of the Regional Development Strategy and the Programme for Government and assist us in achieving a regional balanced economy.”
Speaking after the meeting Mr Gallagher reiterated his disappointment that Strabane was not included in the naming of the bid.
“Any substantial bid of this nature, if successful, would be very economically beneficial. I feel this naming is a result of disinvestment in Strabane and we will be left behind. The value of marketing is immense, we cannot underestimate the financial impact this would have had on Strabane.”
Sinn Féin councillor Karina Breslin who voted against the proposal with her party said, “In the event we are successful, that is when the opportunity will arise to market it on a Derry City and Strabane District council wide basis.
“We will ensure Strabane features heavily in the programme of events as we have a massive cultural and artistic community and we will ensure our areas can benefit in a major way from it.”