Concerns raised over lack of visible '˜Factory Girls' progress
Clare Moore questioned the will of the authorities to develop the project and described the treatment of renowned Cork artist, Louise Walsh and the women of the city who have been involved in the project with her, as shocking.
The project, which was first suggested 25 years ago, was expected to honour the thousands of the local shirt factory workers who formed the backbone to Derry’s economy for over a century.
Revised plans for a large sculpture at Harbour Square behind the Guildhall are currently being considered by planners after the original site at King Street roundabout was deemed unsuitable.
Clare said that given progress to date on the wider project, that it was hard to draw a conclusion other than that those who have it in their gift to bring it to fruition “don’t want it”.
She said: “The bottom line is they can find the money for the things they want. I think it’s very unfair.
“I am one of the ones that was interviewed for the project and the artist put an awful lot into it and I think it is terrible these people can do this. It’s scandalous.
“There’s hardly a family in Derry that hasn’t got a relative or friend who worked in the factories. People are asking questions.
“There are a lot of people out there that are wondering what is happening and are very much for it,” she said.
Problems unrelated to the actual art project have included the relocation, concerns over funding and issues with the current proposed site at Harbour Square.
A Department for Communities spokesperson said that to date, £110,000 to develop the project and associated public realm works, claimed the project’s total estimated cost will be around £1m, the vast bulk of which will be used for the public realm works and not for the art project itself.
The Department spokesman said: “The funding package to complete the project cannot be considered until the project secures planning permission and will need to be considered in the context of the Department’s wider budget position.
“Derry City and Strabane District Council has submitted the planning application which is likely to be presented to the next Planning Committee meeting in March.
Any issues regarding the proposed site at Harbour Square are being addressed through the planning process.
“The Department remains committed to working with the artist and Derry City and Strabane District Council to deliver the project and provide a lasting legacy to the city’s shirt factory workers.”
Tens of thousands of women from across Derry, Donegal and Tyrone worked in the city’s textile factories in the 19th and 20th centuries and secured the city’s place in the history of the industrial revolution.
Louise Walsh was commissioned by the Department for Social Development to take the Factory Girls public art project forward back in 2006.