REPRESENTATIVES from Belfast, Derry and Strabane, along with four British cities, have expressed anger and outrage at being disqualified from bidding to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.
The EU has ruled that the Northern Irish joint bid, along with that of Leeds, Dundee, Nottingham, and Milton Keynes, can no longer be considered for the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture 2023.
The European Commission has informed the British Government that the UK's participation in the programme will no longer be possible in light of Brexit.
But Northern Irish politicians say their bid should be treated as a special case.
Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, said his party had written to the EU Commission to ask that the Belfast-Derry-Strabane bid be treated "as a special case".
DUP MEP Diane Dodds described the decision as "needless and spiteful posturing by the Commission". She tweeted: “Despicable. Brussels has spitefully not only blocked the UK having the Capital of Culture in 2023 (despite scheme being open to non-EU members) but waited until UK cities spent time & resources on strong bids.”
The candidate cities had previously believed they would be able to take part despite Brexit, on the basis that non-EU cities have held the title before. But it was pointed out that these non-EU cities were in countries that had already applied to join the EU, not leave it. Only cities in countries within the EU, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), or those that have applied to join the EU are eligible to be considered.
Brussels emphasised that the European Capital of Culture can’t be in the UK, which would preclude Belfast and Derry as they fall under British jurisdiction.
The three Irish councils in their joint application had said: "If we’re successful in our bid, we’ll host a year-long programme of events that will showcase both cities and the region resulting in huge benefits."