Irish Culture Minister, Josepha Madigan, has written to Derry City & Strabane District Council to confirm Dublin has “intervened strongly” in Brussels to try to keep the city’s bid to be the European Capital of Culture alive.
Ireland, at both ministerial and diplomatic level, has been advising its European partners that the potential exclusion of the Derry/Belfast bid for the prestigious title is not merely a technical matter but should be seen in the wider political context of Brexit.
In a letter addressed to DC&SDC Chief Executive, John Kelpie, she explained: “I and my colleague Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, are closely monitoring the issue to ensure that there is ongoing supportive engagement by the government.
“I am pleased to tell you that Ireland has already made representations on the matter in Brussels through our Permanent Representation to the EU.”
The diplomatic efforts follow a ruling last year by Tibor Navracsics, the European culture commissioner, that Derry and Belfast are ineligible because they are located in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is scheduled to leave the EU in 2019.
In January DC&SDC passed a motion urging the Irish Government to explore the possibility of facilitating the entry of the Derry/Strabane and Belfast joint bid despite Brexit.
Now Ms. Madigan has written: “On December 12, the EU Council Cultural Affairs Committee discussed the advice from the Commission that the selection process for five ECOC bids should be discontinued as a consequence of the UK decision to withdraw from the union.
“Ireland intervened strongly to set out the govemment’s support for the Derry and Belfast bid being able to continue and noting that any change in approach in relation to bids for the ECOC 2023 is not merely a technical matter.
“Ireland emphasised that full account should be taken of the political context of the underlying decisions of the European Parliament in June 2017 and of the council in September 2017.”