Belfast Telegraph

Derry Factory Girls tribute scrapped after £85k in public cash spent

Artist Louise Walsh with a portion of her sewing machine sculpture, which the Department for Communities has said it would no longer fund
Artist Louise Walsh with a portion of her sewing machine sculpture, which the Department for Communities has said it would no longer fund
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Plans for a sculpture to honour thousands of former shirt factory workers in Londonderry have been hung out to dry after it was revealed the artwork would cost up to £330,000 to complete.

Some £85,000 of public money had already been spent on creating the artwork, which was being funded by the Department for Communities, before it was abandoned yesterday.

Co Cork artist Louise Walsh originally started work on the factory girls artwork in 2006, but now Derry and Strabane District Council has been told the current project is to be scrapped as it no longer represents value for money.

The department told the council a tender process for a new sculpture would now begin.

Mayor John Boyle said £85,000 had already been spent on the incomplete artwork, but is confident that the city will eventually have a tribute in place.

"The decision has come down to the Department for Communities, they are not prepared to fund it any more," he said.

"The council has always been very supportive of the project.

"Planning permission has already been granted and that's a major hurdle that's already been overcome. We won't be starting again from the very beginning."

The sculpture was originally to be located at King Street in the Waterside, but that changed to Harbour Square due to planning problems, which led to a redesign of the original piece. Those issues saw initial costs spiral.

The Department for Communities said the decision to halt the original project was "disappointing" but it could not justify investing further money in it due to financial considerations.

"Given the passage of time, the cost of completing the project would now result in a total cost of almost four times the original budget, meaning that, regrettably, the project no longer represents value for money," it added.

"The department and Derry City and Strabane District Council are still committed to commemorating the contribution of factory workers."

SDLP councillor Martin Reilly said: "The problems with the previous commission were not of council's own making and it is disappointing that they could not be resolved.

"The whole ethos behind this sculpture was to remember and celebrate the work of the generations of women who were the backbone of the regional economy for decades. Their sterling work stands in stark contrast to a process which has been an example of how not to deliver a project.

"I'm confident that this new approach will see a piece of art placed at Harbour Square to finally deliver a tribute to the Factory Girls."

Belfast Telegraph


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