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Derry Mayor Cathal Crumley
tells BBC NI's Audrey Carville: "Threats are a PR disaster for the city"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 July, 2000, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Threats postpone garden launch
TV Presenter Charlie Dimmock
Garden features on Charlie's Garden Army series
The opening of a garden which features in the popular BBC series presented by Charlie Dimmock has been postponed due to loyalist threats.

Staff at the St Columb's Park Reconciliation House in Londonderry said they received threatening phone calls from loyalists objecting to a plan by the Sinn Fein mayor of Derry to attend Saturday's opening.

The building of the garden had been filmed for the BBC's 'Charlie's Garden Army' as a cross-community project involving people from both sides of the community. High profile TV star Charlie Dimmock presents the series.

The director of the community centre in the Protestant Waterside area of the city has said the project workers are desperately disappointed, but Derry Mayor Cathal Crumley said he would not give in to loyalist intimidation by staying away.

'Threat to trash garden'

But the director of St Columb's, Wayne Ford, said he had to take the threat seriously.

Mayor Cathal Crumley:
Mayor Cathal Crumley: "I will not give in to threats"

"I received a call on Wednesday from someone who was an intermediary who conveyed the message that if the mayor was to come to the opening then there was a risk that there would be a picket, or possibly even that the garden would be trashed," he said.

The opening ceremony and party was to have been held on Saturday evening.

Mr Ford said: "We have had dozens of people from both sides of the community working in the garden and putting their hearts into it.

"There is a real sense of disappointment because everyone was looking forward to the opening and the party as a final climax and now there is a tremendous feeling of deflation and disappointment."

'PR disaster'

Hardline unionists objected to Mr Crumley's election as Mayor on the nationalist-dominated council last month.

Sinn Fein's first mayor in Northern Ireland, he had served four years in prison after being convicted of IRA membership.

Mr Crumley said the threats were a "PR disaster for the city" and "a mistake by the loyalist community" because they went against all of the principals which Park House stood for.

"The Park House peace and reconciliation centre has been at the forefront of conflict resolution for years and it is widely known not only in the city, but in the island of Ireland as a neutral space in which all parties to our difficulties have been able to attend and participate in conferences over the years.

"This cross community project was a very exciting event and we were all looking forward to the culmination of the work that had been carried out in the garden," he said.

'I represent whole city'

He added that he would not allow threats to stop him acting as mayor of Derry in all sections of the city.

"Threats of any kind of this nature are totally unacceptable to the vast majority of citizens in this city.

"Since I became mayor over four weeks ago I have represented all the citizens of this city and attended numerous cross-community events particularly in the Waterside.

"I intend to act as mayor of the city and I will respond to any reasonable invitations to me and I don't intend to be deflected either by threats or stupidity," he said.

Mr Ford said a party would be held for the workers at some stage in the future "to have a bit of crack and forget about all this nonsense".

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10 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Protest at Derry civic parade
06 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Former IRA prisoner elected mayor
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