Unionist leaders ask the Assembly to help with centenary stone costs

The centenary stone could cost the public up to £14k.

The leaders of the three main unionist parties at Stormont have asked for help to cover the costs of a stone to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary at Stormont Buildings.

It has been reported by BBC News NI that it could cost up to £14,000. Originally, the DUP, UUP and TUV had said the stone would be paid for by unionist MLAs and there would be no contribution from the public purse.

The letter, seen by BBC News NI, said it would be “problematic” to require them to cover the full installation costs.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, Doug Beattie, leader of the UUP, and Jim Allister, leader of the TUV proposed contributing £4,000 and for Stormont to “bear the balance costs”.

They said that was a “fair and equitable way forward” as the planned location for the stone to the east of Parliament Buildings was a “more elaborate and costly setting” than the western site unionist parties had proposed.

It is understood that officials have estimated the installation costs for the eastern site at about £18,000, whereas the western site could cost £4,000.

The letter said: “We also think that requiring a donor to undertake the full installation costs, as suggested, is problematic not just in this instance but in respect of the practicalities and the precedent going forward.

“Is it now to be policy that if any further memorials or structures are requested at Parliament Buildings, then, those seeking such will have to bear the full costs of production and installation, or is the centenary stone project alone to be treated in this way?”

Party comments

A DUP Spokesperson spoke to The News Letter: “This is a joint project between the Unionist parties. We believe it is fitting that there is a permanent recognition in the grounds of Parliament Buildings to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary in 2021.

“The proposal, first put to the Assembly Commission, was that the stone would be donated from contributions made by Unionist members and that it would be sited on the West side of Parliament Buildings by the Assembly Commission.

“Subsequent issues have arisen relating to siting the Centenary Stone on the East Side of Parliament Buildings (which is the preferred site of the Commission and its Officials) and associated additional installation costs and we look forward to finding a fair and equitable outcomes on these issues in the near future.”

An SDLP spokesman said: “This is clear cut. The proposers agreed to cover the costs of the installation and they should honour their commitment to the full amount at the location agreed by the Assembly Commission.”

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