A council investigation into reports of sectarian singing and comments at a young loyalist event in Co Tyrone has cleared the organisers of blame.
The report concluded that while the incidents at the event organised by Castlederg Young Loyalists on July 9 in Castlederg were ‘unfortunate, it could not be determined to be a fault of the organisers’.
However, councillors decided not to accept the officer’s recommendation to award the funding which had previously been withheld. A new investigation into the incident will now be held.
Sinn Fein councillor Ruairi McHugh had previously raised the matter at the July council meeting, describing the event as descending into a ‘sectarian hatefest’. He also pointed out that the council-maintained car park was ‘bedecked in loyalist and unionist flags and paraphernalia’.
The concert, at Albert Street car park in Castlederg, had been allocated £5,000 from the council’s Good Relations Fund. Councillors voted in favour of the investigation with the funding withheld until the outcome was reported.
In a report to the health and communities committee, it noted that members should “approve that Grant Aid payments are made to Castlederg Young Loyalists in line with the terms and conditions of their Letter of Offer within the Good Relations Grant Aid Programmes”.
It added: “The organisers are aware that an individual, under the influence of alcohol, made sectarian comments following a performance by one of several acts on the night of July 9. This was dealt with promptly by the organisers.”
It added: “Whilst this incident was unfortunate, it could not be determined to be the fault of the organisers. The incident was dealt with promptly as far as was possible and the organisers offered both an explanation and apology to the public and to council as the funder.”
Sinn Fein councillor Ruairi McHugh said the report amounted to a watering down of what happened that night.”
SDLP councillor Brian Tierney added his disappointment that ‘the term investigation was used’.
He said: “I just don’t know if we have done due diligence with this. We haven’t spoken to anyone outside the event organisers about this.”
Defending the report UUP Alderman Derek Hussey said: “I am disappointed with some of the rhetoric around this and the vilification of the organisers of this event on the back of a report which is a very factual account of events as I have heard.
DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney said the report clearly states “there was no breach in terms and conditions”.
Members voted against the officer’s recommendation to award the funding with three for, seven against and one abstention. Council officers will now arrange for a further investigation into the event to be carried out after members voted in favour of it.