Mayor defends Foyle MEP EU event invite

UUP Derry City & Strabane District Councillor Derek Hussey.
UUP Derry City & Strabane District Councillor Derek Hussey.

Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council, Elisha McCallion, has defended a decision to invite just one of the three MEPs for the north to a local event after being criticised by a UUP councillor.

The matter was raised at the latest monthly meeting of the Council in the Guildhall last Thursday.

The matter was raised by UUP Councillor, Derek Hussey, regarding a forthcoming European Funding Seminar, scheduled to take place on November 20th.

Colr. Hussey said he noted that the invitations have gone out for the event and that Martina Anderson MEP would be one of the participants, along with another Sinn Fein MEP from across the border, Matt Carthy.

“Were our other two Northern Ireland MEPs contacted and if so what was the response?” Colr. Hussey asked, adding: “And if they were not contacted why were they not?”

Mayor McCallion responded that this seminar was a Mayor’s initiative and not an official council event, adding that the invite for Derry politicians Martina Anderson related to the fact that she was locally based and very accessible.

She also confirmed that the two other MEPs for the north, Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson and the DUP’s Diane Dodds had not been invited.

Mr Hussey then asked for the Chief Executive, Mr. John Kelpie’s, interpretation of this and said that as he understood it, the role of Mayor was an a-political one.

Colr. McCallion said that of course that was the case, but the event remained a Mayor’s initiative, before Mr Kelpie clarified: “The Mayor is at liberty to set up any sort of initiative and invite who he or she wishes.”

But the Mayor said that the event was not exclusive.

In other council business Mayor McCallion hailed a string of recent accolades and success stories for the council area, including Derry being named as the world’s top Hallowe’en destination by ‘USA Today’ just prior to the festival getting under way in the city.

Colr. McCallion said she took great pleasure in making the declaration that Derry had one while attending official engagements in the state of Massachusetts, where another of the finalists in the competition, Salem, is located.

Colr. McCallion also confirmed that the Derry-Strabane Council would officially launch its bid to become European Youth Capital for 2019 during the Hallowe’en celebrations at the weekend, at a time when there would be high levels of young people around.

The bid was officially launched on Saturday, firstly in Strabane at 1pm before moving on to Derry later the same day.

“This is essentially a call to action and we are asking all young people to become involved in that,” Mayor McCallion said.

At the same meeting, Colr. Hussey raised the issue of flooding and grass growing out of gratings locally.

Colr. Hussey questioned whether the road drainage system was fit for purpose.

SDLP Councillor Gus Hastings agreed that many of the gratings locally were flooding repeatedly, particularly bad in the Temple Road area of Strathfoyle.