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Derry 'ripping the back' out of culture year: Nelson McCausland

By Donna Deeney

Published 09/06/2015

Nelson McCausland
Nelson McCausland

The chairman of the Assembly's culture committee, Nelson McCausland, has hit out at the number of City of Culture legacy projects being funded across Londonderry.

Mr McCausland said it was widely believed that Derry was "ripping the back" out of the honour by continually looking for money from the Department for Culture and Leisure (DCAL) for related projects.

The DUP MLA, who is also a Belfast Telegraph columnist, said: "These legacy projects, how long are they going to last? How many years? Will it be 3013 and there will still be a legacy?"

His words infuriated fellow DCAL committee member Cathal O hOisin, who said the comments were the latest of a series of attacks that have marked the chairmanship of Mr McCausland.

The Sinn Fein MLA added: "Nelson McCausland has been indicating for quite some time that he doesn't want any funding to go to Derry and the legacy projects from the City of Culture year. It is typical of his chairmanship of the DCAL Committee and on a par with his relentless attacks on the Irish language and the GAA.

"I've been a member of the committee since 2011, and in the year he has been chair he has demonstrated double standards that show he is not impartial. I have already expressed no confidence in him so his repeat of anti-Derry rhetoric is no surprise."

Mr McCausland insisted he was speaking in the interests of fair play and was criticising DCAL minister Caral ni Chuilin.

He said: "Londonderry's year as the first United Kingdom City of Culture was acknowledged to be a great success and it will have a lasting legacy within the city.

"The minister, however, appears to believe that she can bring forward funding requests for legacy events arising from the City of Culture year in perpetuity, and in areas outside of Londonderry or even the wider north-west region.

"There are very obvious financial pressures facing DCAL, like other government departments. The minister, however, has focused her cuts only in particular areas under her responsibility, such as the funding directed to marching bands, whilst other areas have escaped all scrutiny."

But the SDLP MLA for Foyle, Colum Eastwood, hit back at Mr McCausland and claimed he had failed to grasp the very definition of legacy.

Mr Eastwood said: "As mayor I was heavily involved in the bid for City of Culture designation for Derry and the most important aspect of that was always the promotion of a positive legacy for the city.

“If anything Derry City of Culture legacy has been underfunded through the failure of the Culture Minister to live up to promises made during 2013.

“It's incredible that Mr McCausland, a former Culture Minister himself, can fail to understand the vital importance of the supporting legacy projects to maximise the full benefit of Derry's City of Culture year for many years to come.

“It is apparent that Mr McCausland does not realise or for some reason does not want to acknowledge the importance of that legacy for Derry.”

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A spokeswoman for Derry City and Strabane District Council, the authority responsible for delivering the legacy plan, said: "The bid was never about the delivery of a one year cultural programme. It was a strategic intervention embedded within the One Plan for Derry~Londonderry and was seen as a catalytic project under developing our tourism."

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