The Members of the Committee considered the following report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues
1.1 In November 2012, the Council received an independent Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) relating to the City Hall and City Hall grounds. This EQIA was carried out in accordance with Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Council’s Equality Scheme. This EQIA underpinned the decision to relocate memorabilia into the exhibition, allowing it to be seen and understood in a different way. Whilst the relocation of the artefacts and memorabilia from various parts of the City Hall into the exhibition space addressed the issue of the City Hall itself, in terms of the EQIA, the EQIA also applied to the City Hall grounds, in respect of which no steps have been taken to address the report’s findings that there is a need to provide a contemporary image of the City, reflective of its vibrancy and diversity.
The purpose of this report is to seek approval on a number of issues related to installations and future installations in City Hall and City Hall grounds.
2.1 The Members of the Committee are asked to recommend that, in accordance with the Council decision of 4th May, the Chief Executive exercise her delegated authority to:
i approve the installation of a statue of Winifred Carney, the final form of this statue to be brought back to Committee for approval, as part of the Capital Programme (approval is being sought through the Physical Programme paper to move this to Stage 2 under the Capital Programme);
ii approve the installation of a plaque commemorating Sir Edward Carson and the signing of the Ulster Covenant;
iii establish a Member Working Group to consider and agree commissions for future installations in City Hall or City Hall grounds; and
iv note the ongoing discussions in respect of statues in the City Hall grounds and the development of a contemporary installation styled as a community arc.
3.0 Main Report
3.1 Discussions have been ongoing at Party Group Leader level in relation to the installation of additional statues within City Hall grounds. This is in the context of the EQIA referred to in the introduction to this report and the need to achieve a greater level of balance in terms of the persons who are depicted or represented within the grounds. One such figure promoted as being a person of significant historical importance, viewed by many as worthy of being commemorated, is Winifred Carney. In the context of the EQIA and not in any way to undermine her historical importance, Winifred Carney goes some way to providing the balance that the EQIA recommends. She does so as a woman, as a Trade Unionist representing workers and as an Irish Nationalist and Republican. Notably she was married to George McBride, a prominent member of the UVF. At Party Group Leaders there was some discussion as to whether this relationship needed to be covered in terms of the statue or referenced in some narrative. A copy of the Redhead report relating to a Winifred Carney installation has been circulated. Members are asked to note that approval to move this to the next Stage (Stage 2) under the Capital Programme is on the agenda for today’s Committee as part of the Physical Programme report.
3.2 At the time that the relocation of memorabilia to the exhibition was agreed there was, as part of that arrangement, a commemorative tile to be installed marking the place at which Sir Edward Carson stood when he signed the Ulster Covenant. Discussions took place with HED as the City Hall’s listing would require consent for the installation to go forward. HED took issue with the installation and the tile, asserting that it would break the symmetry of the marble in the reception area. As it has not been feasible to proceed, officers are presenting an alternative proposal which would be the erection of a plaque within the reception area commemorating the place at which the Ulster Covenant was signed by Edward Carson. An example of the type of plaque and its proposed location appears in the Redhead report has been circulate to Members.
3.3 Members will be aware that decisions have already been taken supporting the installation of two stained glass windows representing the LGBT community and the NHS. Discussions are ongoing at Party Group Leaders in respect of future installations to include Mary Ann McCracken (which is the subject of a NOM), Grace Bannister, InezMcCormack, Robert McAdam and Paddy Devlin.
3.4 These discussions will continue with a view to getting to a settled list which will then be developed into a programme. For this and the other installations work will have to be undertaken to establish commissions in order to allow the installations to proceed subject of course to funding. Members were also presented with a proposal for a municipal arc type installation sitting within a contemporary modern design. The arc has a more dynamic type use in that the panels can be changed to promote different content or themes.
3.5 Given the extent of these proposals going forward Members are asked to consider establishing an All-Party Working Group to engage in the commissioning and design of these installations. Final decisions on commissions would of course be taken through Committee in the normal way for approval.
Financial and Resource Implications
3.6 No approvals are sought at this time in respect of funding. The installations referred to will have to be included within the Capital Programme and taken through the established procedures for approval.
Equality or Good Relations Implications/Rural Needs Assessment
3.7 Any decisions in respect of the installations referred to would require to be subject to an equality screening or an EQIA if found to be necessary.”
During discussion, a Member requested that consideration be given to including within discussions the potential for installing in the grounds of the City Hall a statue in recognition of Isabella Tod, who was noted for being a dedicated social reformer on behalf of women and those experiencing poverty, as well as a suffragist and the person who had secured the admission of women to Queen's University.
He highlighted her links to the Council by pointing out that, in 1888, when a new city-status municipal franchise for Belfast had been granted, she had ensured that the vote had been conferred on persons, including women, rather than solely on men. She was, therefore, a deserving candidate and the proposal would assist in addressing the under-representation of tributes to women in the grounds of the City Hall.
He went on to welcome the proposal contained within the report that a plaque be erected within the reception area of the City Hall to commemorate the place where Sir Edward Carson had signed the Ulster Covenant. However, he requested that consideration again be given to placing an inscription on a single tile on the exact spot where he had stood.
After discussion, the Members of the Committee agreed to recommend that, in accordance with the Council decision of 4th May, the Chief Executive exercise her delegated authority to adopt the recommendations contained within the report and:
i to approve the installation of a statue of Mary Ann McCracken in the grounds of the City Hall, the final form of which would be submitted to the Committee in due course for approval, as part of the Capital Programme; and
ii to refer to the Party Group Leaders the requests for the installation of a statue of Isabella Tod in the grounds of the City Hall and for a tile to be inscribed marking the spot in the entrance area of the City Hall where Sir Edward Carson had stood when signing the Ulster Covenant.