SDLP man suggests council ‘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.

According to a council report, the original estimated cost of the event was £60,000 but the final expenditure was £63,422.22.

At the 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 incuded.”

Cllr O’Loan added that the council “wouldn’t even countenance” spending money on an Easter Rising event in Dublin.

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.”

TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston stated that “brave men went to the Somme, cowards went to the Easter Rising.”

TUV Cllr Brian Collins asked if Cllr O’Loan was “suggesting some sort of impropriety going on here.”