‘DIY Christmas’ on cards for small towns & villages courtesy of Council

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

SMALL towns and villages across Mid-Ulster have been landed needing to perform a DIY Christmas this year, as the Council has left all practical work towards preparing Christmas celebrations in the hands of local communities.

Volunteers in local communities are being left to navigate their way through a myriad of technical and organisational problems previously handled by the Council.

And, while the issues around sorting out insurance, electricity bills and health and safety compliance are causing headaches, the size of grant each area has received to carry out the work is being found to be insufficient.

During the Summer, Mid-Ulster Council allocated £74,500 to 56 villages and townlands throughout the district, with the size of the settlement dictating how much money each area received;.

The likes of Moy, Donaghmore and Fivemiletown received £2,500, Pomeroy, Clogher and Stewartstown and others received £1,500, a total of £1,000 was awarded to the likes of Bush, Caledon and Rock, while the smallest grant of £750 was awarded to "small settlements" such as Clonoe, Carland and Tullyhogue.

At the time of the award, the Council said the grant was to "support the supply, installations, maintenance, running cost of providing festive lights and any associated switch-on / launch event".

However, it has been discovered by community groups that while the funds will indeed support Christmas celebrations, they will have to raise further funds themselves to cover all the costs and sort out all the logistics largely on their own.

And representatives of community groups in the area have expressed their extreme misgivings around the Council's handling of the scheme.

Johnny Rushe, who is Chair of the Stewartstown Community Group, says the new arrangements with the Council are making life difficult.

“If people don't really take these projects on in towns and villages then nothing will happen," he said.

“The money handed out just isn't enough to cater for all of this.

“You have to buy the tree, pay for the lights, electricity, cover the health and safety requirements and liaise with the likes of Transport NI.

“And that's before trying to organise some sort of switch-on event."

There is a similar issue down the road in Tullyhogue, where the Desertcreat Church community is taking on the organising of the Christmas tree in the town.

Heather McIvor, a parishioner, is involved with helping with the Christmas arrangements in the village.

However, the £750 awarded to Tullyhogue for their arrangements will be almost entirely consumed simply by purchasing and insuring the Christmas tree.

In the region of just £50 will be left over for lighting costs as well as all other organisational issues.

Speaking to the Courier, she said: "If groups aren't prepared to take it on then there will be no Christmas celebrations.

“The funding is pathetic and it's not going to cover the costs for many community groups."

However, while the groups are disappointed at the level of funding and support offered by Mid-Ulster Council, they say it won't dampen their Christmas spirit.

“There's a great cross-community spirit in Stewartstown," says Johnny Rushe, "and by hook or by crook the event will be happening."

And those sentiments are shared by Heather McIvor.

“Despite the issues," she says, "Tullyhogue won't be in darkness this Christmas."

The switch-on event in Tullyhogue will be held on Thursday, 30th November at 7pm, with Donaghey PS choir performing on the night.


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