Costs for granting the Freedom of the Borough of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon to two famous sportsmen are understood to have run into tens of thousands of pounds
Former Portadown Football Club Manger Ronnie McFall was granted the honour in May 2017 at a special ceremony, while rugby legend Rory Best was conferred the honour at a another ceremony last September. According to a Freedom of Information request, the total spend on conferring the honour on Mr McFall cost council ratepayers £15,458.26.
However, it’s understood a second Freedom of Information Request is pending in relation to costs linked to Rory Best’s award, with sources claiming it could reach as much as £100k.
While those who requested the information have supported marking the huge contribution these sportsmen have made to the borough, they have voiced concern at the huge spending costs related to the ceremonies when ‘essential services are being cut’.
Catering alone for the Ronnie McFall event cost more than £4,500 while more than £1,000 was spent on flowers.
The event took place after a Notice of Motion brought to council by the DUP.
In their response Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council said: “At the Council meeting held in March 2016, a Notice of Motion was passed unanimously to grant Freedom of the Borough to Mr Ronald McFall MBE for the significant contribution he has made to sport in the Borough and in NI.
“The conferment, the highest civic honour a Council can bestow, was also to recognise that he is an excellent ambassador and advocate for his sport and for this Borough.
“The costs associated with the Freedom of the Borough Ceremony are detailed below: Venue and Equipment Hire Costs £1,381.43; Catering £4,515.33; Flowers £1,010.00; Design, Printing, Stationery & Venue Dressing £3,644.50; Professional Fees £200; Freedom Scroll & Book of Burgess £3,175; Photography Services & supply to local and national media outlets £920; Video Services & supply to local and national media outlets £612. Total £15,458.26.”
It is unclear when details of the Rory Best event will be released
A spokesperson for Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes said: “The lavishness of the spend on these ceremonies is in stark contrast to the high level of deprivation in the area.
“There are people struggling to pay their rates. The council needs to be more transparent and accountable.
“These are the costs associated with one Freedom of the Borough Ceremony. We are waiting on the costs for the second one which we are led to believe will be substantially more.
“We are all for marking the contribution that these people make to their sport and to this area, but is this value for money in terms of spending ratepayers money when essential services are being cut?
“We don’t think so given another NI council was able to provide two such ceremonies for £4,800. Again, style over substance.”