Belfast Telegraph

£250k for Derry Peace Bridge launch defended

War of words breaks out over Peace Bridge ceremony costs

By Donna Deeney

Development company ILEX has defended the cost of the opening ceremony of the Peace Bridge in Londonderry after an MLA claimed it did not give value for money.

Among the controversial costs, which totalled £263,410, were £36,708 for food and £24,429 paid to a Co Down marquee company.

A total of £83,763 went to Eventor, the company hired to organise the weekend.

Eventor's fees included the cost of river management and Foyle Search and Rescue which were paid £1,626 and £2,855 respectively, while the organisation paid itself £35,649 for its management team and costs of managing the event and allocated £43,632 for the programme of events

The choirs who performed on the day were each paid different amounts.

The D Doherty Civic Choir was given £1,250, the Codetta Civic Choir received £1,000, while the City of Derry Civic Choir was paid over six times that amount — £6,050.

Six hundred schoolchildren from throughout the city also sang on the bridge as part of the opening ceremony.

Neither the children nor the schools they represented were paid anything, but the children did receive a ‘goodie bag’ each, containing a sandwich, a drink and a bar of chocolate.

A breakdown of the costs was released into the public domain through a question in the Assembly from Foyle MLA, Pat Ramsey. He said it “will raise a few eyebrows” when people saw how and where the money was spent.

Mr Ramsey said: “I had concerns that the opening of the Peace Bridge did not reflect the best possible value for money for our local ratepayers and unfortunately these concerns have been proved true.

“Given the austerity measures we have in place and the savings across the board of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Government departments there will be eyebrows raised at the extravagance of this.

“I’m calling on Derry City Council and ILEX and the Culture Company to put together a work programme to ensure that local companies have the capacity to apply and compete for tenders.

“This was a wonderful occasion celebrating a wonderful structure that all the people of Derry are rightly proud of. The benefits of the peace bridge will be felt well into the future. But we must learn from this and ensure similar events in the future are afforded the greatest level of value for money for our ratepayers.”

The bulk of the costs for the opening ceremony of the Peace Bridge which was held last June came from European peace money — £165,948 — with ILEX making up the shortfall of £97,461.

Defending the spending, ILEX spokesman Caiomhin Corrigan said the costs were justified.

He said: “If we had not provided a weekend of activity and spectacle we would have been criticised.

“This was putting Derry in the shop window and there was an expectation from the funders that this should be a consumer-led project and not a corporate project and consumer projects cost, but the coverage that was broadcast was unprecedented. While lessons are always there to be learned, the costs were justified.

“Eventor used the money they were given to procure services on behalf of ILEX including health and safety costs which are totally necessary and their own fees of £30,188 were for work undertaken since the previous February.

“In relation to the costs of catering, Yellow Door were paid to provide food for over 300 VIPs on the day, while Peter D Catering received £23,460 to cater for everyone who was in any way involved from the Wednesday before to the Monday following.

“ILEX will never be involved in an event of this magnitude again. It was a one-off and all things considered it was value for money.”

Factfile

COMPLETE BREAKDOWN OF COSTS

Eventor Programme of Events: £43,632; Eventor Event management fees: £30,188.99; Estate Services Stewarding: £30,000; Unit 7 PA/AV services: £29,208; Pains Fireworks Fireworks Display: £25,068; North Down Marquees: £24,429.78; PeterD Catering: £ 23,460; CDS Design Services for the day: £15,944.27; Yellow Door Catering: £13,248; City of Derry Civic Choir: £6,050; Corish Video Production Services: £5,854.80; Eventor Event Management Team: £5,461.20; Eventor Safety Cover, Foyle Search & Rescue (paid via Eventor): £2,855.10; Artfrique, Opening Ceremony:£2,350:

Eventor River Activity Manager (paid via Eventor): £1,626; D Doherty Civic Choir: £1,250; Codetta Civic Choir: £1,000; AA Road Signs: £840; Teresa Craig, Master of Ceremonies: £500;

Big Fish Poster reprint: £444. Total £263,410.14

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