Council to seek control of event management at Ebrington Square after controversy

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Derry City and Strabane District Council will seek a transfer of responsibility for events booking at Ebrington Square from The Executive Office (TEO).

The proposal was made by Waterside Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson at a Council meeting on Wednesday, September 27.

TEO faced severe criticism after private businesses were paid £280,000, due to a dispute over public events.

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The proposal stated: “This Council reaffirms our commitment to the transfer of the Ebrington site from TEO to Council as soon as practically possible.“As a next step in the process, we request that officers urgently engage with TEO, so Council can provide management and oversight function of sustainable and cost-effective events at Ebrington Square.”

Revellers enjoying the One Big Weekend festivities in 2013.Revellers enjoying the One Big Weekend festivities in 2013.
Revellers enjoying the One Big Weekend festivities in 2013.

Colr. Jackson said issues around Ebrington square were ‘well-documented’, and the area was a key economic driver for the city and district and ‘something we all value’.

“But it's much more than that,” Cllr Jackson said. “It’s an event space as well and many of us feel strongly about the protection of future events at the site.

“What's happened over recent months is deeply frustrating so as a way of moving forward, we feel the council are in a much better position to manage events on the site and ensure events are available to all promoters that wish to use it.”

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Ballyarnett SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney described the matter as ‘an absolute shambles’ and a ‘total PR disaster for many organisations’.

He agreed that more local government and stakeholder control was needed, but expressed concern that the Council might be inheriting a ‘white elephant’ in terms of the money, time and resources needed to organise events in the Square.

“This can't be handled the same as car parks were handled in 2014,” Cllr Tierney urged. “Where we were just told we were taking them, with no resources or maintenance budget provided, and Council had to pick up the tab.”

“It is crazy to think that Derry will not have any events in Ebrington Square in 2024, but that’s what it's looking like at the minute.

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“We need to try and rectify that and we need to encourage TEO to do all they can to provide events in that fantastic space.”

Waterside DUP Alderman Niree McMorris supported the proposal, but said that simply transferring the site to council won't solve its problems.Colr. Jackson said the proposal focused on taking over events management only and, while taking full responsibility from TEO was the Council’s ‘ambition’ for the future, it is ‘not practically possible right now’.

Ebrington Hotel said it welcomed the proposal.

"The Management at the Ebrington Hotel deeply regret the furore that has surrounded the use of the Square in recent months and is particularly remorseful for any part we may have played through comments made and upset caused.

“We have learned lessons and realise we should have gone about things very differently.

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“We have no role or desire to veto any event and acknowledge that any concerns we had around rave events were addressed and turned out to be well stewarded and well organised, which we whole heartedly appreciated.

“We look forward to putting our full support behind Ebrington Square and its future management and that an exciting schedule of events can be put in place that allows everyone’s expectations to be managed,” it said.