Protesters invited into Derry & Strabane Council meeting to hear of £100 support

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A small group of protesters from the Derry Against Fuel Poverty group were invited into the public gallery of the Guildhall during a committee meeting to hear the update on the Emergency Fuel Support Programme under council’s Hardship Fund.

The invitation was issued after SDLP councillor Brian Tierney raised the matter almost two hours into the meeting saying: “Chair, it has come to my attention that while we have been in this meeting there have been a number of people gathered outside who want to know what the processes are around this particular programme.

“They are, as I understand it, a number of campaigners who have been very vocal, very supportive of people across this district in relation to the crisis people are facing and they are now concerned that this council and this committee in particular are having meetings in private where members of the public are not invited.

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“I believe it’s a small number of people and I would like to suggest can we get a position as to why currently we can’t host these people within the public gallery and allow them to see this discussion in person.


“The narrative that we are having meetings in secret isn’t healthy. I’m all, and this council throughout the time I’ve been on it, is all about transparency and being open and I would suggest we take a short interval, allow those people in to see council making the decision around this Emergency Fuel Support Programme because I think it would be useful to have them here.”

Chief Executive John Kelpie informed members: “The current operation of the committees is a hybrid method which is to be reviewed in January and as part of that agreement members agreed that members of the public would not be admitted to the chamber during this period.

“This meeting is of course an open meeting that has been broadcast on YouTube, it’s not a confidential meeting at this stage. However, should members desire to invite someone into the chamber there is no reason someone can’t propose and second that today and if it was unanimous or a majority on that issue then it can be accommodated.”

Proposing the members of the group protesting outside were invited in, Councillor Tierney commented: “I have no doubt that as soon as this scheme opens the organisers of this campaign will be supportive of it and trying to support people by getting access to it.”

Members voted in favour of inviting the group into the public gallery following a short interval.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter