A Belfast councilor who voted against a bid for the city hosting the Eurovision Song Contest next year has said “we were never going to get it”.
t the recent full meeting of Belfast City Council, SDLP councilor Brian Heading spoke out against the bid in current times, as details of who voted for and against a bid for the contest by City Hall emerged.
Belfast missed out last month after failing to make the shortlist of seven cities to host the competition for the UK. The competition is set to be held in the UK in 2023 after safety fears ruled out this year’s winner Ukraine from hosting the show.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said last month there were “lessons to be learned” from Belfast’s failure to make the shortlist, adding the city was at a “significant disadvantage” because the application bid was not submitted sooner. Belfast Council said the application was submitted within the deadline.
The Alliance motion at City Hall to make the bid, forwarded by Councilor Mickey Murray at last month’s City Growth and Regeneration shortly after the announcement the UK would host the event, read: “Should Belfast be shortlisted as a potential host to Eurovision 2023, this council would immediately engage with ministers in order to progress and seek support to submit a full bid to host the event.” The motion passed by 10 votes to seven.
All Sinn Fein committee members voted against the motion, with one SDLP member and one People Before Profit member joining them to vote against. All DUP and Alliance members voted for the Eurovision bid, with one SDLP member and one Green Party member joining them in support.
At the full council meeting, SDLP Councilor Heading told the chamber: “At the City Growth and Regeneration Committee I said I disagreed with the council ring fencing between £2 million and £5 million to prepare the way for bringing the event to Belfast. Especially given we had 15 deaths, within three months, of vulnerable people on our streets.
“I said if the council had money to spare, we should be using it to tackle issues relating to why those deaths had taken place, and to prevent further events taking place.
“But as we saw a mere 48 hours after the announcement was made on Radio 2, Belfast didn’t rate on it. It was always going to go to some marginal seat for some Tory, looking at the rise of Labor in the polls, saying ‘I’m going to be redundant soon – if I can get a bit of good news and get associated with bringing Eurovision ‘.”
He added: “I have to say at the committee I told you so. And I repeat it tonight – we were never going to get it.”
Green Councilor Anthony Flynn said: “It is important to hear the concerns Councilor Heading is raising, and a lot of it I do agree with. The member raises a lot of important points about the state of our city.
“One of the issues I do want to challenge is around the potential costing of hosting that event. That cost is based on the local authority’s size and power, and as we know, Belfast City Council does not have the same powers as other councils in England.”
He added: “I am very disappointed with the outcome, but I want to commend the hard work and dedication of the staff in this council, who pulled it out of the bag in a very short space of time, to deliver what I still believe was a very good initial bid.”
He said when it was announced in June that the UK would be a contender to host the contest, “the Assembly should have been straight off the bat”. He said: “I believe there was only one government minister who actually talked about it in public.
“And then we had a party leader come out and say on the day it was announced Belfast was unsuccessful ‘Oh there you go, it was in late’. It wasn’t in late, it was before the deadline.”
Alliance Councilor Mickey Murray said: “We could have hosted Eurovision, it could have been done. I don’t buy this whole argument, that there are homeless people on the street, and such and such is happening in the city centre.
“I had ten years experience working in the homeless sector, and the issues in the sector ten years ago are the issues that are still facing them now. The way the government has dealt with the homeless issue hasn’t changed in ten years either, and that is why we are facing the issues.”