£330k cost of Derry ‘Factory Girls’ sculpture is ‘unjustifiable’ - Council

Artist Louise Walsh looks at the original plans for a landmark Factory Girls sculpture for Derry back in January 2006.  (DSA/PA)
Artist Louise Walsh looks at the original plans for a landmark Factory Girls sculpture for Derry back in January 2006. (DSA/PA)

They are remembered in song and story and now Derry’s ‘Factory Girls’ look set to finally get a physical memorial.

Derry City & Strabane District Council this week signalled its intension of commissioning a new £90,000 commemorative monument.

The council’s Business & Culture Committee unanimously agreed the move on Tuesday, in a departure from its previous policy of installing Louise Walsh’s partially-completed ‘Factory Girls’ sculpture in Harbour Square.

Officers will now abandon efforts to support the completion of Ms. Walsh’s work - which was commissioned by the old Department of Social Development (DSD) in 2006 for the King Street roundabout - and, instead, seek to commission a new work which councillors hope will be in place by this time next year.

Members took the decision after the Director of Business & Culture, Stephen Gillespie, informed them the estimated extra cost of completing Ms. Walsh’s sculpture and erecting it outside the Guildhall was £244,000. This, added to the £85,000 cost of the work to date, would bring the total cost of the project to £330,000, which Mr. Gillespie said, and councillors agreed, would be “unjustifiable.”

Members were advised the decision to discontinue the process had been taken by DSD’s successor department and funder of the ‘Factory Girls’ project, the Department for Communities (DFC), on value for money grounds.

The matter was brought out of confidential business following a request by Sinn Féin Councillor, Caoimhe McKnight, who said that “despite us being all of 12 years down the line, we still don’t have anything to show for the process.”

She said it was long since time the “factory workers who built this city” were properly recognised.

Colr. McKnight requested officers work with DfC to commission a new art work and asked that when a prospective new tender process for new sculpture is eventually launched that it be time bound to ensure a memorial is in place at Harbour Square this time next year.

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly said: “This approach of council as the applicant and DfC as the funder has worked well with many other projects and I am confident that this new approach will see a piece of art placed at Harbour Square - where planning permission has already been granted - to finally deliver a tribute to the Factory Girls.”

Mr. Gillespie said that if the new process is ratified, it will be led by council, which will appoint a Project Board that will then set milestones en route to delivery.