Page last updated at 21:21 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 22:21 UK

Dissidents won't stop Derry culture bid says US envoy

Derry is up against Birmingham, Sheffield and Norwich
Derry is competing against Birmingham, Sheffield and Norwich

A decision to make Londonderry the 2013 UK City of Culture would send a clear message to dissident republicans, US economic envoy Declan Kelly has said.

"I believe that one of the compelling reasons to give Derry this opportunity is to send a message to these people, these cowards," he said.

"If they think they're going to derail the peace process, they're wrong."

Mr Kelly said there was no point in pretending that recent dissident republican activity was not an issue.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has formally backed the city's bid, praising its "rich and varied cultural history".

"In troubled times, the city demonstrated a real spirit and a drive to overcome adversity - that spirit has been harnessed by the entire community in supporting the City of Culture bid," he said.

"The city is now looking resolutely to the future. If the bid is successful, Derry and the wider North West region will have a golden opportunity to showcase the vibrancy of its cultural life, and its enduring warmth and vitality, to a huge audience - not just in these islands but around the world."

On Tuesday, the first and deputy first ministers gave their support to the bid.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness met the team behind the efforts at a special event in Belfast City Hall.

Derry City Council Chief Executive Valerie Watts said the city had every chance of winning.

"No matter what you call the city, the important thing is to bring this bid home for Derry," she said.

"I have every confidence that this is the winning bid."

The first and deputy first minister said a successful bid would benefit the community as a whole, boosting tourism and local business.

The bid is to be submitted on Friday. Norwich, Birmingham and Sheffield have also been shortlisted.

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