A local councillor has expressed concerns over the “ostentatious” nature of a reception held for Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill and player Steve Davis.
Stephen Nicholl said that while both local men deserved the best wishes “they so richly deserve”, the reception event was “inappropriate in scale and ostentatiousness”.
“When I supported a proposal for a Civic Reception at the council meeting on November 2 my expectation was of a modest affair - certainly not a six-course dinner and the accompanying pomp and ceremony,” Cllr. Nicholl said.
He added that at a time when the town town and wider council area had been hit hard by the loss of jobs over the past year, the council needed to rethink its handling of ceremonies such as the reception.
“We as elected representatives cannot carry on business as usual. We cannot continue to offer pomp and spin as answers to the real problems that affect our communities,” Cllr. Nicholl said.
And he added that a better proposal would have been for the NI team to return, “not to a fancy dinner with the great and good” but to the Showgrounds, to run training sessions with schoolkids from across the borough.
“To sign autographs and pose for photos but also to inspire our children, to tell them that commitment and ability go hand in hand with achievement. That would be a worthwhile use of rate-payers’ money,” Cllr. Nicholl said.
He added: “In truth, as a council we are struggling, struggling to catch up on the basic need to define a structure and plot the way forward.
“This merger was forced, there was no meeting of minds between the previous councils and the preparation that other councils completed years ago we are only starting.
“We need greater urgency and a greater understanding of the responsibility we now have to improve the quality of people’s lives.”