‘One will not be amused’

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THE Queen wouldn’t approve of Ballymoney Borough Council’s plan to splash out £20,000 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.

That was the claim from Sinn Fein councillor Cathal McLaughlin at a meeting of the council last week.

At the meeting the green light was given to proposals to fork out the royal sum to mark the historic anniversary in style.

£1,000 of the money set aside will go towards a slap-up meal for council officials costing £500 per table.

Other events planned involve exhibitions, a historic walk and talk, sport, art, film and music events, community celebration lunch, garden party, tree planting, civic service and Jubliee beacon.

Other proposals include the presentation of commemorative gifts, floral displays, official opening/naming of council facilities, street dressing, rebranding of existing events, marketing materials and a community grants scheme.

It was proposed by UUP councillor Bill Kennedy and seconded by the DUP’s Frank Campbell that the draft programme of events be approved at an estimated cost of £20,000.

It was also proposed and seconded by the two councillors that the council reserves two tables at the County Antrim Dinner, at a cost of £500 per table, with the budget provided in official and courtesy visits.

Sinn Fein’s Philip McGuigan said he respected people’s rights to celebrate the Jubilee but hit out at the costs involved.

“I am more than happy, if someone wants to attend the dinner, for them to go,” he said.

“But I am not happy ratepayers’ money is being used.

“It’s ludicrous.

“I and my party can’t agree with that.

“We are in an economic climate where every penny counts and I don’t think this is value for money.

“There is funding out there for community groups who want to celebrate this.”

Cllr McLaughlin added: “I am not criticising what the event is for.

“People are entitled to celebrate their culture.”

But he added that given the current financial climate he was “sure the Queen herself wouldn’t give this her blessing”.

He said he had “a lot of admiration for the woman” following her visit to the Republic of Ireland last year when she visited Croke Park and conversed in Irish.

Cllr Kennedy said: “If nobody makes an application for funding then the money isn’t spent.

“It is not as if the council is throwing out £20,000.”

“I expected the comments we got,” said Cllr Finlay.

“A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”

Mr Finlay said given Her Majesty’s service, the spend on Jubilee celebrations was fully justified.

“It’s £20,000 that is going to be on the rates,” replied Cllr McGuigan.

“As for service, the lady has been well paid. I wish I could get what she gets.”

A counter-proposal put forward by the two Sinn Fein members against the Jubilee spend was defeated.

REPORT: CHRIS KILPATRICK

REPORT