Belfast Telegraph

Councillors not giving up on Belfast/Derry European Capital of Culture bid

By Andrew Madden, local democracy reporter

Councillors have not given up their fight to see Belfast, Derry and Strabane be jointly crowned European Capital of Culture 2023.

Brexit had seemingly scuppered the joint submission when in November last year the European Commission said it would no longer be possible for any UK cities to bid for the prestigious title.

However, at a meeting of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee on Wednesday night, councillors voted to lobby the Irish Government to urge the European Commission to change their decision.

Derry City and Strabane District Council and Belfast City Council had been preparing their bid since early 2017, already spending a combined £350,000 in the process.

The issue reared its head on Wednesday night when the committee discussed the council’s proposals to host an alternative “legacy” programme of events, in lieu of running for the title.

The committee voted to begin work on developing the programme, which will be returned to the committee at a later date.

However, a second proposal was put forward by Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey to send a joint council delegation to meet with the Dublin government over the European Capital of Culture 2023 title bid.

Councillor Hargey said she was “still optimistic” about the European Commission overturning their decision.

“There are unique circumstances, particularly in the north, and we need to get the European Commission look at the competition in that context.

“It would be a good move for us and Derry to go to the Oireachtas to fight for this.”

The proposal passed unanimously.

Since November, Belfast City Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council have written to Brussels with delegations meeting with the European Commission over the issue, but to no avail.

The UK was due to host the European Capital of Culture in 2023 and five UK cities were bidding for the title at the time the European Commission's decision.

They were: Dundee, Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Belfast/Derry.

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