Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee decided to keep their powder dry before decided on whether or not to pay over E1,000 to send a delegation to the 2017 Colmcille Summer School in Gartan, the theme of which this year is ‘Ireland and The European Union Post British Withdrawal’.
Committee members expressed concern that the conference may involve a duplication of the work of other symposia on the Brexit fall-out, which have already been attended by councillors and officers.
At a meeting of the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday, members were asked to consider sending up to five councillors and two officers to the 28th Colmcille Winter School which takes place outside Letterkenny over the weekend of Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25.
Members were told that, according to the conference notification, “a distinguished panel of speakers will be in attendance with the full programme being available early January 2017.”
The conference fee is E150 per delegate, excluding expenses, and this would amount to over E1,000 for the seven-strong delegation proposed.
Members asked for more information on what the conference would entail, suggesting they did not wish to go over old ground insofar as the Brexit debate was concerned.
S i n n Féi n C ou n c i l l o r Maolíosa McHugh noted how a council delegation recently attended the “very successful conference in An Grianán” before Christmas during, which councillors heard very “learned and informed people” discuss the implications of a United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union on the North West.
He said committee members needed more information before committing over E1,000 towards a council delegation.
“I wonder what new is there in this conference to what we have had already,” he said.
SDLP Councillor John Boyle concurred with Councillor McHugh and said members needed “more information” before deciding on the “value of attending”.
Independent councillor Paul Gallagher quipped that he believed it was a “very important conference that council should be attending” and that he’d be interested in forming part of a delegation that, he said, would deliberate on the future of the island after a British withdrawal.
It was pointed out that the ambiguously worded, ‘Ireland and The European Union Post British Withdrawal’, referred, of course, to a westward rather than eastward withdrawal.
Ellen Cavanagh, Lead Democratic Services and Improvement Officer, responding to the councillors’ concerns said notification of the conference arrived immediately before Christmas and greater detail had not been available.
It was agreed to defer a decision on attendance until further details were forthcoming from Gartan.