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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 12:55 GMT
Campaign success for city status
Newry will now be a Cathedral City
Newry will now be a Cathedral City
Six Northern Ireland towns launched campaigns for city status. But it was Lisburn and Newry which beat off competition from Ballymena, Craigavon, Coleraine and Carrickfergus.

BBC News Online looks at the successful campaigns and their efforts to win the award.

Lisburn set-up an all-party team in its attempt to attain city status.

The second largest local authority in Northern Ireland, organisers said the County Antrim town was strategically placed on the main Belfast-Dublin corridor.

Its theme for the campaign was: "Lisburn - a city for everyone."

At its launch, Mayor Jim Dillon said city status would bring considerable benefits to Lisburn and boost inward investment.

The gateway between the island's two jurisdictions, this community pioneered Northern Ireland's trade and commercial relationship with the Irish Republic

Newry campaigners

He also pointed to the potential for increased tourism.

"Investment in Lisburn has already produced the Lagan Valley Leisureplex, which has had more than one million visitors and boasts Northern Ireland's largest swimming pool," he said.

The Lisburn campaign highlighted a number of assets. These included:

  • The designation of the major shopping area Sprucefield as Northern Ireland's regional centre

  • The town's growth, highlighting the need for an extra 20,000 homes

  • Its popularity - it has the most expensive average house prices in Northern Ireland

  • Home to Hillsborough Castle - the official residence of the Royal Family in Northern Ireland

    Newry in County Down promoted itself as a future "city of culture", and its campaign focused on the part the town has played in the history of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

    Jim Dillon: Had shown Lisburn's assets to the Queen
    Jim Dillon: Had shown Lisburn's assets to the Queen

    "The gateway between the island's two jurisdictions, this frontier community has pioneered Northern Ireland's trade and commercial relationship with the Irish Republic," it said.

    The town launched a website dedicated to the city status campaign.

    It said Newry and Mourne was "blessed with a rich and diverse natural environment".

    The area has an estimated population of 84,500, with about 28,850 living in Newry town.

    Built on the twin waterways of the canal and the Clanyre River, the town authorities say it has seen significant investment in the retail and leisure sectors over recent years.

    The council recently completed an economic action plan based on a comprehensive review of social and economic needs and resources.

    Newry's rich architecture was highlighted in its campaign. Other assets included:

  • The decision to locate the North-South trade and business development body, InterTrade Ireland, in the town

  • The fall of unemployment from 25% a decade ago to about 6% in 2001

  • The highest number of new business start-ups in Northern Ireland

  • Its architecture and the inheritance of many religious and civic buildings

    The four losers in the competition had also undertaken robust campaigns.

    Ballymena applied for city status as part of the millennium celebrations in 2000.

    More than half of the borough's total population of 58,500 live in the town.

    It is the regional administrative centre for many organisations in the north-east, including the health board, education board and several government departments.

    During Coleraine's campaign, Mayor John Dallat said no town had an automatic claim to city status.

    But he said he believed it was "a matter of pride that Coleraine has reached the stage in its civic evolution when it can with credibility be considered as a potential city".

    However, Coleraine was joined in defeat by Craigavon in County Armagh and Carrickfergus in County Antrim.

  • See also:

    14 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
    Two NI towns awarded city status
    13 Mar 02 | Scotland
    City status for historic burgh
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