£80 tickets 'lot of money for night's entertainment'
Sinn Fein has backed a DUP proposal over attendance at a ‘Sportsman’s Gala Dinner’ to be held by Carrickfergus Rugby Club next month with tickets at a cost of £800 to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Speaking at a meeting of the local authority on Monday evening, Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown said that the precedent has already been set for councillors attending such events over the years.
The rugby club’s dinner is to be held at the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick, on November 26 with guest speaker former Ulster, Ireland and British Lion Tommy Bowe.
Carrickfergus Alderman Billy Ashe MBE said that the mayor and nine Carrick councillors should have the opportunity to support a local club that does “sterling work” in the community.
He added that he was unavailable that evening.
Cllr McKeown noted that the council has taken a number of tickets, if not a table, at similar events previously.
Ald Ashe said that the council is “in danger of having double standards”.
“The mayor should go and the Carrick councillors should have the opportunity to support one of our local clubs that does sterling work in the community and looks after the youth as well just as we have supported clubs in the past,” he stated.
Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Keith Turner said that he would attend but he would pay for his own ticket. He said that the council should be supporting sporting endeavours especially those that encourage the youth of the area.
He went on to say that the rugby club is “doing a great job in Carrickfergus to the benefit of the whole area” and he added that it was “not an extortionate sum of money”.
However Knockagh Alliance Ald Noel Williams said: “I agree the mayor should go. However, I do not think the council should spend £800 for a table at a local sports club. It is a lot of money for the council to pay out for a table for a night’s entertainment.”
Ald Ashe continued: “I agree it is a lot of money but Carrick Rubgy Club puts a lot of effort into work they do in the community of Carrickfergus and has to be supported just as we have supported other clubs in other areas.”
Larne Lough Alliance Cllr Danny Donnelly asked if the council would be “setting a precedent” and if it would be “expected to buy a table every year”, which he said “could be quite expensive”.
He said that the mayor is invited, he should attend but the council should not be paying for other councillors to go.
The Deputy Mayor, Cllr Matthew Armstrong, quipped: “There can’t be too many problems in Carrickfergus if it is £80 for a feed of meat.”
“I do not think we can start picking and choosing at this stage,” he added.
Seconding the proposal, party colleague Ballymena Ald John Carson said: “I am really perturbed by some of the comments being made, We are being penny wise and pound foolish.”
A vote was carried in support of Ald Ashe’s proposal.