Derry Culture Company director Garbhan Downey suspended

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The Director of Communications at the Culture Company has been suspended by the organisation.

Garbhan Downey was informed of the decision this morning.

The suspension came when he spoke to the media after the Culture Company had been ordered to hand over some of its £12.6m budget to run the 2013 City of Culture year, to Derry City Council.

His solicitor Des Doherty said his client is still unclear why this decision has been made.

"I need to know exactly what they are saying in relation to Mr Downey and what his position is.

"It remains steadfastly unclear and I cannot understand what the position is at all and it needs to be clarified."

Mr Doherty added that it was unclear who had actually suspended Mr Downey.

"The Council have made it clear that they claim to be in charge of the entirety of this process, that it has come at the behest at the Council.

"I can only presume that, but again I simply do not know because the position is not clear.

"I have asked the Town Clerk and Chief Executive (Sharon O'Connor), to clarify the position. I need to know legally where we stand and as far as I am concerned at the moment it is not clear."

But the Chief Executive of Derry City Council Sharon O'Connor has defended her actions.

She said the marketing function of the Culture was "not performing."

"The plan is that we maximise our resources and that is where all this has stemmed from. It is unfortunate that it has happened in this way.

"It is very important to point out that I am personally responsible with making sure that the £12.6 million DCAL has provided for the City of Culture project is delivered per the letter of offer they provided to Derry City Council.

"We are the signatories of that contract. So to suggest that finances would be used in way other than those anticipated by DCAL for the benefit of City of Culture and for the benefit of the city is factually incorrect."

Next Monday the Culture Company is due to launch its full marketing strategy to the Culture Board for the 2013 year of culture, which included 148 events.

Sharon O'Connor rejected claims that the timing of changes to the Culture Company undermined that.

"The very fact that this has happened in the way that is has happened is as much a surprise to me as everyone else.

"The exploitation of opportunities is a plan that needs to be supported by a broader group of people than three of four people within City of Culture."

The Chief Executive of Derry's Playhouse theatre, Niall McCaughan, supported Ms O'Connor's actions.

"There needs to be more marketing regionally, nationally, and internationally.

"This is the UK City of Culture it's not the Derry City of Culture and we need to up our game.

"The product is happening at the moment but I think the marketing needs to step up into fifth gear.

"I know from Garbhan Downey's point of view they needed to have the product 100 per cent there in order to market it, but I think it is good that it is going to be centralised now."

DCAL have declined to comment on the matter.