SDLP man suggests council is ‘massaging the figures’ over Somme Centenary Festival spend

Cllr  Declan O'Loan.jpg

Cllr Declan O'Loan.jpg

SDLP Councillor Declan O’Loan has suggested the council is “massaging the figures” over the Somme Centenary Festival spend.

The festival, which involved a concert on Carrickfergus’ Castle Green featuring singer Aled Jones, marked the sacrifice of the 36th Ulster and 16th Irish divisions.

The council’s original estimated cost of the event was £60,000 but the final expenditure was £63,422.22.

At a council meeting on September 5, Cllr O’Loan said that the local authority’s spending was “very much directed at events that are much more sympathetic to one part of the community.”

“I don’t think that’s healthy to the wellbeing of this council,” he continued.

“It’s a huge sum of money and maybe there has been a massaging of figures as officers’ costs were not included.”

Cllr O’Loan said the council “wouldn’t even countenance” spending money on an Easter Rising event in Dublin, which he said had “quite a modest cost.”

DUP Alderman Gregg McKeen called on Cllr O’Loan to withdraw his comments, saying the event had been for “all those who went out to fight.”

“All sides had ancestors or loved ones who went out to fight on the Somme,” he stated.

“Councillor O’Loan is using this to score political points.

DUP Cllr Paul Reid said he found Cllr O’Loan’s comments “deeply offensive”.

“Cllr O’Loan needs to realise that those fighting in the trenches were fighting for the freedoms and liberties that he enjoys today,” he said.