A decision to spend up to £25,000 on events in the Causeway Council area to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday has been slammed as “an absolute disgrace”.
The condemnation from a Sinn Fein councillor follows agreement by unionists at Tuesday’s meeting of the Corporate Policy and Resources committee to allocate £8,400 for events to mark the Queen’s birthday.
Events include a garden party recognising local charitable and volunteering organisations, incorporating music and a DVD of the Queen’s visits to the Causeway Coast and Glens area. A guest list for the event is to be agreed by a working group.
Unionists, who make up the majority of the Corporate Policy committee, also agreed a further £10,000 be made available for a community grants programme for community celebrations such as street parties.
In addition to the £18,400 agreed on Tuesday, unionist councillors gave the nod last week to spend £6,600 to mark the Queen’s 90th at a special meeting of Council.
Among the events to be held is a relay of beacons in each of the four legacy council areas - including Limavady - concluding with the lighting of a beacon in Portstewart on April 21, the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.
The decision at last Wednesday’s meeting took just six minutes after councillors waited for 45 minutes until enough councillors were available to make up a quorum of 20.
Sinn Fein’s Brenda Chivers said her party had proposed establishing a committee to discuss celebratory events for all occasions and centenaries, but said there was nothing for the 1916 centenary and it was all one-sided.
The DUP’s George Duddy said he hoped the Queen would live until she was 100.
Colr. Duddy said it was a case of straightforward maths and that’s why it was not in the centenary celebrations.
The move was described as “an absolute disgrace” by Sinn Fein’s Cara McShane.
She said some of the most deprived wards were located within the Causeway Council area, and said there were community groups struggling and people struggling to make ends meet yet “this Council flippantly throws money at these type of events”.
Colr. McShane said that, when the matter was discussed at a special meeting last week, Council “couldn’t even get a quorum for this”. She asked for the costings of calling a special meeting which she said took almost an hour to secure a quorum.
Colr. McShane said some councillors needed to “get their heads out of the sand” and “think about putting money where it makes a difference in people’s lives”.
Colr. McShane said unionists were making “a cold house for a large minority in this new Council area”.
“It’s disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” added Colr. McShane.
UUP Colr. Darryl Wilson said Colr. McShane’s comments were “disparaging”, adding: “We do have a mandate and we are a democracy and we do try to carry out the will of the people.”
“We are in the UK. Her Majesty The Queen is our monarch and we are very proud of her and we will celebrate her 90th birthday.”
When it came to the vote, all unionists present voted in favour of the proposal to allocate the £8,400 for events and to make £10,000 available for community grants.
The only Sinn Fein councillors present, Brenda Chivers and Cara McShane, voted against, while the only SDLP member present, Colr. Orla Beattie, abstained.
Sinn Fein Colr. Brenda Chivers, speaking after the meeting, said that, while everyone was entitled to celebrate events important to their culture, £25,000 was too much money at a time when cuts were affecting community groups and people were struggling.
“£25,000 is a step too far,” added Colr. Chivers.