Northern Ireland news

Calls for 'good relations' grant for Co Tyrone festival to be suspended amid claims of sectarian songs and chants

Sinn Féin councillor Ruairi McHugh
Connla Young

DERRY and Strabane council has been asked to suspend a 'good relations' grant for a Co Tyrone festival amid claims that sectarian songs were sung at the event.

Sinn Féin councillor Ruairí McHugh raised concerns over claims of sectarian singing and chanting during the outdoor concert in Castlederg on July 9.

Mr McHugh told the July council meeting that the Sash and "up to your necks in Fenian blood" was sung as well as well as commentary "lambasting Protestants for selling land to 'Fenians' amongst other offensive chants about Sinn Féin".

The Castlederg Fusion event, which took place at Albert Street car park and was organised by Castlederg Young Loyalists Flute Band, had been offered £5,000 by the council.

A council spokeswoman said the cash was to fund the "cross-community event which was held from July 9 – 12, supporting elements including a funfair, performers, entertainment and safety equipment provision".

Mr McHugh said the event took place on a council-maintained car park.

“I highlighted concerns brought to me about the sectarian singing/chanting that emanated from the marquee that was erected at this car park for the event," he said.

“Concern is exacerbated given that this event has been earmarked to receive £5,000 of good relations funding

“Not only are people appalled at what they were subjected to but it adds insult to injury to learn that they, as rate payers, may be having to foot the bill through council funding."

A spokeswoman for Derry City and Strabane council said: "Concerns were raised at a meeting of full council on Thursday evening about reports of sectarian singing and comments made at the event.

"Council members have now called on officers to look further into the reports, and concerns about bunting still in the area.

"Members also requested that payment of the grant aid be suspended until the completion of this investigation.

"A full report will be brought back to council members for consideration once complete."

DUP Alderman Keith Kerrgian said he had spoken to members of the band who were distancing themselves from comments made by a person at the event adding that some of the bunting was ‘Northern Ireland Centenary bunting'.

Castlederg-based UUP councillor Derek Hussey said: "I know that the organisers, Castlederg Young Loyalists, will have no issues with participating in an investigation into the incident.

"I know that the main organiser did speak to the person concerned and my understanding is that the issue was dealt with by the organisers on the ground, it was short lived and dealt with."

Members from all parties supported the proposal.

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