The behind the scenes row rocking the city’s year as the UK cultural capital has reached the Office of First and Deputy First Minister as claims emerged of issues caused by the appointments of outside consultants without the CEO of the Culture Company being made aware of their identies or their briefs.
The claims emerged as scores of emails were released by the Culture Company after requests made by both the Londonderry Sentinel and Radio Foyle under the Freedom of Information Act. They reveal the deep and bitter differences between the CEO of Derry City Culture, Sharon O’Connor and the CEO of the Culture Company, Shona McCarthy.
They reflect growing council dissatisfaction with the performance of the Culture Company last year, while the Culture Company became increasingly angered at the council’s bid to take over the marketing function and the input of consultants.
There are claims that people appointed by the Strategic Investment Board set up meetings with Culture Company staff who had not been made aware of their appointment.
One document written by Shona McCarthy says: “The town clerk has tried to push through this takeover bid (of marketing) by a constant discrediting of the Culture Company marketing effort. It has escalated in the last few days because CC will present their fully developed marketing plan...on Monday. It is not in the interests of the planned takeover that we do that...this takeover is not in the interests of what is best for the city, it is about Derry City Council pushing through a flawed plan and taking the CC budget to do it.”
Another said: “Since its set-up the company has been starved of any additional back up, support or resource from DCC. This lack of backing is then followed by repeated expressions of concern and questioning of performance, and an almost daily repitition (sic) of lack of confidence.”
In an email dated October 3, Ms McCarthy asks Ms O’Connor to set out the legal basis in writing upon which she believed she had the right to transfer and integrate marketing.
In another the town clerk writes: “At this time other key stakeholders and I have absolutely no confidence in Company’s ability in the area of Marketing.” And Ms McCarthy writes:”There has been no formal communication at any stage from any stakeholders to indicate dissatisfaction, let alone no confidence.”
Among the emails are claims that the council had to rescue key events, including One Big Weekend.
On the eve of the City of Culture launch, Sharon O’Connor wrote to Shona McCarthy: “This whole project is in jeopardy and deflecting blame is not helpful. We really need for you to drop the us and them attitude and get with the team Derry approach.”
Elsewhere she told Shona McCarthy: “You told me there was no need for panic with regard the state of planning for 2013. Now might be a very good time to panic.”