‘Bullish but feeble’ reply on stadium

Dermott Henderson, SDLP council candidate, The Moor ward.
Dermott Henderson, SDLP council candidate, The Moor ward.

It seems that SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood may have touched a nerve with Sinn Fein as its spin doctors clamber to defend the indefensible fact that the party’s DCAL minister has failed the people of Derry by ignoring Brandywell stadium.

Successive letters to the editor from Sinn Fein activists on the matter have been published in recent days.

Culture minister Car�l N� Chuil�n.

Culture minister Car�l N� Chuil�n.

One of the submissions is a typically bullish yet equally feeble effort from a senior Sinn Fein press officer - who, true to form, conveniently omitted his job title - to explain why the minister has not given a single penny to part fund the essential redevelopment of the stadium.

He offers the excuse that the stadium cannot be built by ‘public funds alone’ because it is the home of Derry City FC, which he states is ‘a private company’.

The truth of the matter is that the Sinn Fein minister has made it quite clear that there won’t be any funding at all from her department for what is in fact a publicly (Derry City Council) owned stadium.

In stark contrast, Linfield FC, also a private company and one which actually owns its own stadium in Windsor Park, seems to be doing quite well out of the Sinn Fein minister’s department - benefiting from a whopping £25m bonanza in grant aid.

With that windfall for the Belfast soccer stadium in mind as well as the other £90m funding carve up for for Ravenhill and Casement Park, it is obvious to see how Mr Eastwood has touched a nerve with local Sinn Fein members.

Quite rightly they are embarrassed by the party leadership’s refusal to deliver a stadium that is fit for purpose in the city of Derry and the knee jerk reaction is to lash out at those who highlight the failings of the leaders they had so wholeheartedly put their trust in.

It is even more understandable that they feel ashamed in light of Derry Sinn Fein’s most recently distributed party political literature.

Glossy leaflets have been popped through many thousands of letterboxes in the city showing Ms Ní Chuílín proudly standing at pitch-side in Derry City FC’s historic ground while shaking hands with the club’s chairman – the image is accompanied by the headline ‘Redevelopment of the Brandywell’.

It is a fact, no matter how you attempt to dress it up, that the Sinn Fein sports minister has done nothing to redevelop the pitch on which she is photographed or indeed to replace dilapidated Glentoran Stand or any other facilities within the stadium.

Perhaps the shame and embarrassment of the Sinn Fein party faithful in Derry would be better channelled in encouraging their ministers to support what is a vitally important project for Derry.

Clambering to leap to the defence of a minister who has let you, your neighbours and friends down is not going to help our city or indeed your party in the coming months and years.