DUP man slams Derry tour guides' 'Catholics not welcome at Apprentice Boys HQ' claim
Visitors to Londonderry are being told by some tour guides that "Catholics aren't welcome" in the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall, a DUP councillor has claimed.
The accusation was made by Graham Warke during a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council's business and culture committee, which agreed to increase its annual spending on tourism from £410,000 to £693,175.
The DUP man expressed concern over the increase in funding in light of the alleged information being relayed to visitors during tours of Derry's Walls.
"The story these tour guides are coming out with is absolute rubbish," he claimed.
"People are visiting the city of Londonderry and are being told a rubbish story. They are being told that Catholics aren't welcome in the Memorial Hall.
"This is something that needs looked at."
Sinn Fein councillor and tour guide training provider Mickey Cooper said he was confident that his trainees had "all the relevant information at their fingertips", but added that they will "all have their own version of the story".
Shauna Cusack of the SDLP acknowledged that everyone had their own perspective, but warned that "giving a false view" of history did not reflect well on the city.
Council tourism manager Aideen McCarter told the committee that Visit Derry was not directly responsible for tour guides but would be happy to take feedback on the issue.
"Qualified tours of the walls, in particular, is an action we will pursue in the next few years through our tourism strategy," she added.
Apprentice Boys of Derry general secretary William Moore said that while he was unaware of Catholics being told they weren't welcome, he did share Mr Warke's wider concerns.
"Many guides convey inaccurate comments and many are not familiar with the history of the city and historic walls. The guides with the Siege Museum are trained and do have valuable knowledge relating to the history of Londonderry," he said.
The Siege Museum and Exhibition, which opened in 2015, features a permanent display of artefacts telling the story of the Siege of Derry in 1688.
Mr Moore, who conducts visits around the Memorial Hall and the adjacent museum, said many Catholics had enjoyed guided tours of the building including the Orange Room, Royal Black Meeting Room and the Apprentice Boys Meeting Room.
The attraction currently has a 4.5/5 'excellent' review on Trip Advisor, where it has received a number of recommendations.
A US tourist in search of a Protestant perspective of Derry's history wrote that they found it in the Memorial Hall.
Another visitor from Dublin wrote: "This museum gives the other side of things, particularly on the Siege of Derry."