Belfast Telegraph

Tourists on Derry Walls told Catholics 'not welcome' at Memorial Hall, claims councillor

Tourists on the Derry Walls are being told by some tour guides that Catholics are not welcome in the Memorial Hall in Society Street, according to DUP Alderman Graham Warke.

He made his remarks as Derry City and Strabane District Council's business and culture committee agreed a new arrangement with Visit Derry to increase annual spending on tourism from £410,000 to £693,175.

Alderman Warke said it was a large increase to commit to and said that he was worried by some of the information being given to tourists during organised tours.

"The story these tour guides are coming out with is absolute rubbish," he said.

"People are visiting the city of Londonderry and are being told a rubbish story and being told that Catholics aren't welcome in the Memorial Hall.

"This is something that needs looked at."

Sinn Fein councillor Mickey Cooper, who acts as a tour guide trainer, said: "Every tour guide will have their own version of the story.

"Any guide I have trained will have all the relevant information at their fingertips."

The SDLP's Shauna Cusack said: "Everyone has their own version of history but giving a false view does not reflect well on our city."

The council's tourism manager Aideen McCarter told the committee that Visit Derry would be happy to take feedback on tour guides, even though they were not their direct responsibility.

"Qualified tours of the Walls, in particular, is an action we will pursue in the next few years through our tourism strategy," she said.

Ms McCarter told the committee that the increase in funding was necessary to deliver the key roles of Destination Marketing and Visitor Servicing, which included the management of the Visitor Information Centre in Foyle Street in the city.

"The review of the Service Level Agreement made a number of recommendations including strengthening the relationship between Council and Visit Derry, particularly to support the overall Strategic Growth Plan for the city and district," she said.

"A number of key opportunities have been identified to do this and have been incorporated within a revised SLA including quarterly meetings between the manager of Visit Derry and the side culture department for the purposes of ensuring a coordinated communication.

"The report identified that Visit Derry is under-resourced and there is a need to increase investment in order to reach objectives set both by the Tourism Strategy and the Strategic Growth Plan.

"Council's contribution should be increased from $410,000 to £693,175 with the ambition to grow investment in marketing to £2m by 2020."

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