Belfast Telegraph

DUP and Sinn Fein branded 'silly moos' over £35,000 cow parade

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Whether it’s military marches or Orange Order demonstrations, it’s not often the DUP and Sinn Fein share the same view on a parade.

But the political foes have formed a surprising coalition backing a move to give the go-ahead for a contentious parade next year.

The Cow Parade, one of the world’s biggest and most popular public art exhibitions, will see dozens of life-size plastic painted cows being placed at different locations across Belfast and Londonderry.

But, at a cost of £35,000 to ratepayers in Belfast, it sparked controversy when raised at Belfast City Hall this week.

Long-standing UUP man Bob Stoker slammed the exhibit as a “waste of money” and claimed councillors would be branded “silly moos” if they agreed to release the funding and stage the show.

“We are talking about £35,000 in today's climate,” he told a full sitting of the council.

“I do not see that there will be economic benefit. And I cannot see how any tourist is going to have a cultural visit enhanced by looking at a painted plastic cow. The message that comes from this council will be ‘what are they playing at’? I can just see the headlines now — ‘silly moos'.”

The Cow Parade has been held in 50 cities worldwide such as New York, Paris, Buenos Aires and Auckland since it was started in 1999. When Edinburgh held the event in 2006, its city council reported a 28% increase in revenue.

According to officials at the development department at the City Hall, Belfast would receive significant economic benefits with an increased tourism footfall of 200,000 visitors. It is also believed that hosting the Cow Parade would gain international exposure and highlight the strength of both arts and agriculture across Northern Ireland.

“I think this is a good idea,” said Sinn Fein’s Conor Maskey.

“With a relatively modest sum of money, we can have vibrancy on the streets, it allows communities a bit of artistic endeavour, create a day of light relief for people in the midst of a recession. Our party will be joining the DUP and others in opposing the amendment (not to fund the exhibit).”

DUP stalwart Robin Newton said: “This is not a one-off event. This is part of the city's overall development. There's a good track record for this particular event.

“The Cow Parade is part of an overall plan. It is the largest and most successful public art event raising over £25m for charity partners in the process. It is a part that Belfast will play with those ‘worthies’ up in the north west in the city of Londonderry.

“If they have enough brains to be voted UK City of Culture they must be doing something right, and we should join them.”

Background

Cow Parade claims to be among the largest and most successful public art exhibits in the world.

Events have been staged in over 50 cities worldwide since 1999, including New York, London, Tokyo, Mexico, Buenos Aires and Paris. Dublin held a Cow Parade in 2003. It is estimated over 100 million people worldwide have seen the famous painted plastic cows.

Edinburgh attributed a 28% revenue increase to its Cow Parade.

Belfast is part of a regional Cow Parade with Derry. The council will spend £35,000 for 10 cows and four mini moos.

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