Belfast Telegraph

Derry City of Culture tensions must end, urges Foyle MP Mark Durkan

Durkan steps into bitter row between council and 2013 organisers

BY GARRETT HARGAN

An MP has called for a ceasefire between two warring factions behind the City of Culture events.

Londonderry last night enjoyed the biggest Halloween celebration in Europe, but the fireworks between the Culture Company and Derry City Council have been exploding in public for weeks.

The Culture Company board witnessed resignations after the council decided to pull the plug on funding three months early.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan has called for an end to the ‘turf-squaring’ for the rest of the year.

He said: “The success of the year means that there will be new issues, ideas, options and ambitions to be discussed and determined. Positive public debate on these should be embraced, not evaded.

“The important thing is to conduct it as positive, purposeful discussion, recruiting the insights and talents of culture activists and other civic interests and not portrayed as turf-squaring between different authorities and agencies.”

Much has been made of poor relations between the Culture Company and council recently, preceded by a public fallout between key figures behind the year, council chief executive Sharon O'Connor and Culture Company chief executive Shona McCarthy.

A Culture Company 2013 spokesman said: “To deliver a project of the scale of the first ever UK City of Culture with no pre-existing blueprint and such a tight lead-in time was always going to be very challenging and quite naturally tensions were bound to arise.

“The fact remains that the Derry-Londonderry 2013 programme has been, and is continuing to be, delivered to the very highest standards.

“Successes like this are only achieved by harnessing the energy and commitment of all stakeholders in a collegiate fashion. The achievements of 2013 are reflective of the herculean efforts of all the city partners.”

A council spokesman said: “The important thing to focus on is that 2013 has been an overwhelming success. Rigour and scrutiny has been applied throughout the project ensuring that all public money was spent wisely and that 2013 achieved the maximum return for the city.

“The planning and delivery throughout 2013 is already returning dividends.”

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“In executing an ambitious and extensive calendar of events there would inevitably be tensions, apprehensions, doubts and differences. A great year for the city thanks to all concerned should not be defined or undermined by the portrayal of working disagreements or executive exchanges.”

Mark Durkan MP

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