Call to suspend funding to tourism body

A PROPOSAL calling for councillors to suspend funding to the company charged with promoting tourism in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area, because it fails to market Strabane adequately, has fallen on deaf ears. 

Independent councillor Paul Gallagher brought the motion before a recent meeting of the council. He referred to a  presentation by Visit Derry – the company responsible for marketing the area – and said it was failing in its responsibility toward Strabane. 

He said, “We give this company thousands of pounds of ratepayers money, I feel they market Derry but don’t market Strabane, it’s just an add on. They talk about Derry and then say ‘the region’… and the ratepayers of the region are paying as much money as the people in the city and they are entitled to be more than being called a region. 

“This company doesn’t think Strabane is worth marketing and the people of Strabane are saying where is the tourist drive, where is the economy?”

“Strabane needs to get its fair share and it needs to be seen to get its fair share.

“I propose we suspend funding until Visit Derry come back and tell us they are targeting tourism in Strabane and not just in Derry.”  

The motion was seconded by Raymond Barr, independent, who added, “I was at the Visit Derry presentation and asked the delegation did their remit cover Strabane and the rural areas? They said it did, but Strabane was never mentioned once. I felt before I came on the council that there was an imbalance between Strabane and Derry, I thought Strabane was the poor relation and I’ve seen nothing since to convince me otherwise. And the imbalance doesn’t just stop with tourism.” 

Both the DUP and SDLP indicated they would not be supporting the motion. 

Michaela Boyle added, “As mayor I do what I can to promote my hometown of Strabane. Visit Derry do a great job of marketing this area as a region, and they do it very well and bring people from across the world to the north west. 

“Strabane is of significant importance to council and it’s important that Strabane gets the due diligence it deserves. It is a hidden gem and we should do more, and maybe Visit Derry should encapsulate the whole of the district more. But I’ve had the conversation with Visit Derry and they definitely do market Strabane as a visitor destination.” 

Her party colleague Kieran McGuire explained, “I agree with Cllr Gallagher. The comments that Strabane would need to market itself better is OK when you have the guts of half a million pound to market the city and next to nothing for Strabane, and then out into Castlederg. The Derg river, one of the greatest angling rivers in the North of Ireland, the new walking trails… they are not being marketed and the area is not being marketed enough by people like Visit Derry who are getting an awful lot of money to do this.”

UUP councillor Andy McKane added, “If the tourist bus goes to Strabane I hope it goes on to Castlederg. There are big connections to Woodrow Wilson and John Dunlap in Strabane, and Davy Crockett ancestors are from Castlederg and more should be done to market the area”.  

The motion to suspend funding to Visit Derry was put to the floor. Nine councillors voted for, 23 against and four abstentions, therefore the motion was defeated. 

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