Belfast Telegraph

Why David is right to flag up royal wedding bunting waste of funds

By Lindy McDowell

Sometimes it takes a brave man to say the things we're all thinking. Step forward that man: UUP councillor David Browne let rip at this week's Belfast city council meeting about £2,000 of public money being forked out on bunting for a royal wedding street party.

The decision came about after the council decided to split a £100,000 underspend it found in the kitty on what is laboriously described as 'delivery of area-based initiatives'. Local projects to you and me.

The idea was that there would be a four-way split - north, south, east and west. But Shankill Road councillors (who knows, possibly with good reason?) felt their deprived area wasn't getting a fair crack of the whip.

And so an additional £11,910 was called into play to be lavished - among other things - on the aforementioned bunting and accessories for a street party.

The doughty Browne was far from impressed.

"This was meant to be for things that fall through the cracks," he pointed out.

"But Ballysillan bunting and stuff for a jubilee party? There is no more requirement for that than for a man on the Moon.

"Some councillors need to realise this and rein themselves in.

"It is an absolute farce and a shambles and some councillors should be ashamed of themselves. This money was not used on what it was meant to be used for."

Oh, David Browne, I am so with you on that!

And from the start I want to make it clear that's not because I am in any way anti-royal wedding street party. Whatever my own views on the Royals, I know that many people want to celebrate the nuptials of Will and Kate. Fair play to them. I've never believed you should stand in the way of any knees-up.

But two grand on bunting? Two grand that could and should be used to alleviate real need? There are many shortages in loyalist areas. But a shortage of bunting is not first among them.

And okay, I accept two grand is not a massive amount of money in the great scheme of things. (And I'm pretty sure it's not the only whack of council funding that could be better spent elsewhere.)

But that two grand sums up all those other handouts on symbolic nonsense that we put up with - like government leaflets being made available in Irish and Ulster Scots.

Once again it's public money being splashed around on decoration when it could be used for something genuinely constructive and lasting. Flags, to use an old working class expression, don't keep you warm.

What makes me angry - as someone who comes from a poor working-class Prod background - is that there are so many practical uses this money could be put to in the deprived loyalist areas in question.

There are so many good people in those areas battling heroically to improve conditions.

After schools clubs, practical help for the elderly, sprucing up the local area, retraining to help people back into the workforce ... there so many needy groups that could do with such cash.

And, fair enough, two grand isn't going to change the world or even one small area of Belfast. But you have to start somewhere.

Tellingly, nationalist councillors didn't vote against the pricey streamers this week. But why would they? For no party is behind the door in voting for similar sops for their own areas.

Like feudal lords dishing out blankets to the serfs, our public representatives can always see the dividend in handing down a bit of symbolic largesse - especially in the run-up to election time.

As for the punters ...

Let them eat wedding cake.

Throw them a bit of bunting.

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