|Vincent Coyle and Ivan Cooper|
On September 17th I attended an information meeting on the Bloody Sunday Trust which was facilitated by the Hollywell Trust at their newly opened multi million pound centre in Derry. The Bloody Sunday Trust Chairperson Julieann Campbell gave a presentation on the Trust's background, purpose and redevelopment plans for the Museum of Free Derry.
As part of the event and following her presentation, the attendees were afforded an opportunity to put questions to Julieann Campbell. After a couple of questions the session was called to a halt by the meeting facilitators, the Holywell Trust. What was startling was that one Holywell Trust employee had the complete audacity to state those taking the opportunity to ask questions were involved in some sort of ambush.
I would take this opportunity to point out that in an ambush there are perpetrators and there are victims, and this was no ambush. This was people availing of the opportunity to ask questions at a public meeting. Those attempting to ask questions included residents who live beside the museum and who continue to seek answers to a number of issues surrounding the redevelopment of the Museum of Free Derry.
What made this scenario completely surreal and absolutely ironic is that the Hollywell Trust are best known in Derry for their work in conflict resolution yet in this case felt talking should stop!
One question came from the owner of the local shop which is located next door to the Museum. The shop owner asked if the new plans included space for his business. The man was told 'yes'. Development plans clearly show that this land features as part of the redevelopment with no mention of the shop on the plans the Bloody Sunday Trust have presented.
Furthermore the Chairperson of the local residents association raised concern over how the plan displayed at the meeting differed from a plan which had recently been taken to residents in the area for approval.
At this point Ms Campbell briefly displayed a different plan. A few weeks ago after a discussion with local residents I emailed the museum manager for a copy of these plans as yet I have not received a copy despite my interest in the project.
In a comment from a Bloody Sunday family member the lady asked for clarity on the proposed Memorial Plaza. Ms. Campbell of the Bloody Sunday Trust said “there is no plans for a Memorial Plaza” despite it featuring in both the 2010 and 2013 plans. She further added that the Memorial Plaza may be the name given to entrance of the museum yet failed to give more detail in terms of what and who this Memorial Plaza will include. I would also question why the Bloody Sunday Trust have previously neglected to mention the Memorial Plaza despite questions over a rumoured Memorial Garden being raised on a number of occasions.
These questions followed on from questions posed at a public meeting in the Pilots Row Centre on July 25th. This meeting was organised so that residents could seek clarity on amended plans which were submitted by the Bloody Sunday Trust for planning approval on Dec 23rd 2013.
During the Pilots Row meeting, Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue suggested that a small delegation meet with representatives of the Bloody Sunday Trust to seek further clarity on issues that were raised during the public meeting. This subsequent meeting was held in DaVincis Hotel in Derry on Tuesday August 19th..
Prior to the meeting we presented the chairperson of the Bloody Sunday Trust with our key discussion points and then on the day with a list of questions relevant to those discussion points as well as other relevant material.
Despite a frank exchange of opinions taking place we feel there are a number of outstanding matters which warrant further discussion and explanation.
One of the questions asked at the meeting was if the ramp at Glenfada Park could be retained as part of the overall development due to the ramps historical significance and direct link to Bloody Sunday. We were told that retaining the ramp was no longer an option as the ramp did not currently meet health and safety requirements and would need replacing irrespective of the plans. We were also informed that a report from the architect employed by the Bloody Sunday Trust outlining these safety concerns had been submitted to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
In light of our concern for the safety of people in the local vicinity who continue to use the ramp I contacted the local (NIHE) Housing Services Manager to ask why the ramp was still open to the public given the Housing Executive had been made aware of safety concerns?
I received the following response from the Housing Services Manager:
I would confirm that at this point I am not aware of any report submitted to NIHE in relation to this ramp that would suggest that the ramp is not safe.
Furthermore having obtained documents from NIHE under Freedom of Information Legislation there is no evidence that this or any report ever existed. Maybe the Bloody Sunday Trust could publish a copy of this report, or even provide it to the residents who live in Glenfada Park.
During the meeting we also questioned the level of consultation carried out by the Bloody Sunday Trust and if the findings of the consultation had been published. In response we were advised that the Trust, Museum employees and a representative from NIHE had consulted with the local community with the findings subsequently submitted to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
A search through the documents obtained from NIHE under Freedom of Information did not produce any evidence of consultation being presented to NIHE. However what I did come a cross was a letter dated July 21st 2014 to Adrian Kerr, Museum Manager from Catherine McDermott, NIHE.
In the letter Ms. McDermott requested the results of 'any consultation' that was carried out in the area. This would seem to indicate that until that point the Housing Executive were unaware of any consultation carried out by the Bloody Sunday Trust and Museum of Free Derry in 2010 or thereafter. I would call on the Bloody Sunday Trust to explain why NIHE have no record of their consultation, or why they have never provided residents with a copy of their findings.
Again I would stress that I am not opposed to the redevelopment of the Museum of Free Derry, however on this occasion I have deep concern over the processes employed and how the Bloody Sunday Trust has engaged on this matter.