Sinn Fein has branded ‘unacceptable’ the large sum spent on such events as the Somme commemoration after it was revealed that one large English council spent only £537 on both events.
SF Cllr Liam Mackle said in the first six months the DUP, with support of other unionist councillors, spent more than £93k on events related to the Somme, £53k on events related to the Queen of England’s birthday and £44k on 12th July bonfires however just £4k was spent on lectures on the Easter Rising.
He said: “Month after month we have to sit and listen to the DUP pontificate about how they are concerned about the ratepayers and the money that council spends. Often they raise issues with the most fundamental of council spending. When it comes to spending rate-payers money on celebrating their own identity they have however no such concerns.
“There is no justification for this level of spending. £200k would go a long way to providing additional facilities. Council, like many public bodies, has had to deal with very difficult financial circumstances over the past number of years.
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“We, as councillors, have a responsibility to ensure ratepayer’s money is spent wisely and that the cost to the ratepayer in terms of annual household and business rates are reasonable. Our priority as a Council should be providing top quality public services that represent value for money and investing in developing the economy of our area. This level of spending by Unionist councillors is extravagant and irresponsible.
“Russmoor Borough Council in England has a population similar our own council. The councillors in that borough, which includes Aldershot, the home of the British Army, did not feel the need to spend over £200,000 on these events. That Council spent a modest £37 on the Somme and £500 on the Queen’s Birthday
“In the early part of this decade Sinn Fein in all three legacy councils, Craigavon, Banbridge and Armagh proposed the establishment of all party council committees to develop a shared and respectful approach to the decade of centenaries.
“This was rejected by unionists, in Belfast where this approach was successful no-one has felt excluded or that their important events are not being marked.
“The difference in the ABC council could not be starker. Over £200,000 spent on events in a few months that are of importance to half the citizens who are from the unionist tradition and £4000 spent on events related to the Easter Rising.
“It is clear that for unionism, discrimination and disrespect for the traditions of Irish nationalism is their default position.
“This is changing, at a six county level but it cannot continue to happen at council level.
“We in Sinn Féin will be working flat out to ensure that equality and parity of esteem are the default at all levels,” said Cllr Mackle.
“Nationalists, who make up almost half the population of the six counties and of the ABC council area, deserve equality, respect and parity of esteem.
“It was never acceptable for councils to take money from ratepayers to fund extravagant events for the benefit solely of unionism and it certainly isn’t acceptable now. It is not the start that was envisaged for the new council and we will be asking serious questions about all spending moving forward.”
The DUP was asked for a comment and said they would reply in due course.