The board of Derry’s Culture Company yesterday met for the first time since its marketing department was taken over by Derry City Council.
The meeting came just days after the Company’s Director of Communications, Garbhan Downey, was suspended from his post after he voiced concern at the transfer of its marketing functions and budget.
Last week, it emerged that Council Chief Executive Sharon O’Connor had informed the Company that its marketing function wasn’t performing.
She ordered it to hand over those responsibilities to the Council and to move staff to Council offices. However, she indicated that the transfer move would not include Mr. Downey.
It’s understood the local authority has told Mr Downey’s solicitor, Des Doherty, that it is now seeking legal advice after he demanded clarification on the reasons for his client’s suspension.
Last night, the city’s MP Mark Durkan said the controversy should not be a distraction from the City of Culture.
He said: “There are so many people who want the City of Culture year to be a huge success and want to contribute to it – not just consume it.
“It is, therefore, understandable there are frustrations out there from local venues, local groups and local interests. They are all hoping that their concerns are addressed amid news of rows, difficulties and the issues which have emerged.
“We have to make sure, as well as looking after the City of Culture as a project, that there is fairness to the record and reputation of an individual who has been clearly affected by the decision taken and the way it has been taken and communicated.
“[This situation] is potentially embarrassing if we dwell on it and continue to build it up as a story as though it is the only story around the City of Culture project.
“It is a serious story for the people who have been affected and I think it is very understandable that there are issues they will be questioning and seeking to address here and I don’t want to minimise any of those issues.
“But there is the overall imperative for the city which is to make a huge success of City of Culture.”
Meanwhile, the North’s Culture Minister has confirmed that Derry City Council has responsibility for the City of Culture project.
Carál Ní Chuilín said: “Derry City Council, as licence holders for the City of Culture title, is responsible for the delivery of the City of Culture project, and the Council’s Town Clerk and Chief Executive acts as the Project’s Senior Responsible Owner.
“All contracts relating to the project are entered into by or on behalf of the Council and all funding is administered by the Council.
“I have full confidence that we will ensure the City of Culture is a huge success for Derry and the wider north west of Ireland in 2013 and beyond.”