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Emails highlight confusion at Dublin City Council over unexpected change to Africa Day

It added that an offer of funding was made by the Department of Foreign Affairs in March 2019, “at which stage Dublin City Council had finalised the local Africa Day programme”.

Image: Sam Boal

THE DEPARTMENT OF Foreign Affairs had contacted Dublin City Council to apply for funding to host events for Africa Day in mid-April after an unexpected change of tack was taken in relation to how the day would be celebrated.

Africa Day has been organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs every year on 25 May, which marks the official day of the African Union. Since 2013, this has involved a flagship celebration in Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park.

Documents seen by TheJournal.ie show the extent of confusion over these unexpected changes to the annual event, after the Department made a decision to take “a different approach” to Africa Day, by cancelling the national flagship event at Farmleigh and handing over the organisation to local authorities around the country.

It offered a “limited grant scheme” to local authorities that “may be organising activities or events aimed at promoting a positive image of Africa; highlighting the Irish Aid programme in Africa; and educating the Irish public about the relationship between Africa and Ireland”.

Ten county councils were granted funding to hold events, with a total of €107,091.56 in funding given to those authorities. These local authorities included Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council, awarded €11,500 and €5,000 respectively.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has denied that Dublin City Council rejected taking over Africa Day’s flagship event at Farmleigh House; when Dublin City Council was asked about this by TheJournal.ie, it said:

“Africa Day has previously been celebrated by a national event in Farmleigh, programmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The event was very successful and attracted large audiences.

Dublin City Council does not programme national events as it is a local authority with responsibility to fund, facilitate and support events which cater for citizens and visitors to Dublin. Dublin City Council does, and will continue to support a local programme of events for Africa Day.   

It added that an offer of funding was made by the Department of Foreign Affairs in March 2019, “at which stage Dublin City Council had finalised the local Africa Day programme”.

Clarifications needed

On 17 April, a week after the deadline for funding applications closed, Department officials contacted Dublin City Council to say that they had been “expecting to receive an application from DCC, but that there were some clarifications about the process required”.

The council was then offered assistance by the Department.

From 14 March, the Department directly contacted local authorities to encourage them to apply for funding as part of Africa Day, asking them to “fill in the attached application form by Wednesday 10th April” and to submit it – including Dublin City Council.

Application form A section of the application form for funding Africa Day events. Source: Department of Foreign Affairs

On 8 April, Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciarán Cannon sent out a press release encouraging local authorities to apply for funding by 10 April.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that this press release, which was also uploaded to the Africa Day website, was only intended to “alert the wider public to this updated approach” and denied that the timeline was too short.

Internal correspondence from Dublin City Council released to TheJournal.ie under a Freedom of Information request indicates that in mid-April, there was confusion among the council’s staff over who was in charge of Africa Day celebrations.

Said one email:

We are being told that the Council are in charge… if you could please liaise with the DFA and get back to us to let us know who to contact about who is organising Africa Day 2019, we’d be hugely grateful!

Another email, sent to the charity Goal in mid-April, indicated that the flagship Farmleigh House event was under the remit of the Office of Public Works (OPW), as it was being held in the Phoenix Park.  

Trócaire also inquired about whether Dublin City Council was hosting any major events for Africa Day, and how there might be “collaboration with outside organisations such as ourselves”.

On 24 April, a staff member from Dublin City Council asked another staff member whether Dublin City Council were “supporting Africa Day initiatives this year”.

On the same day, in response to a query from the Irish Times, Dublin City Council said that it “had not agreed with the Department of Foreign Affairs to organise any events around Africa Day”, and that “there are no plans to hold an event similar to that held in Farmleigh”.

Dublin City Council regularly holds event in conjunction with migrant groups celebrating diversity and culture and are supporting local events in Dublin City that will celebrate Africa Day.

At the beginning of May, the Dublin City Council received correspondence from Akidwa, the African Irish Passports Association and other organisations on how they could get involved in events the council was hosting. 

On 15 May, 10 days before Africa Day, the Department of Foreign Affairs contacted Dublin City Council to request the events that they had organised so that they could share the plan to raise awareness of those events.

Other documents showed that members of the public, charities and representative groups wrote to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about cancellation of Africa Day’s flagship event at Farmleigh House, arguing that councils did not have enough time to host events under this new approach.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Dublin City Council said that it provided “financial and in-kind support” to the following organisations to ensure there was a programme of events to celebrate Africa Day 2019:

  • Tritees, a voluntary/not for profit group organised an Africa Day of culture, music and food (previously took part in Africa Day in Farmleigh where they organised the popular “African Best Dressed Fashion Parade”) in Darndale. A separately supported performance by the Afro-Irish Drum and Dance Group also took place in Darndale, Dublin 17.
  • The African Solidarity Centre programmed a weekend festival involving live bands, a dance performance by “Motema” along with talks and lectures in Dublin 1
  • The Uganda Association held a family day which included music, food, live music, band, fashion and DJ in Merrion Square.
  • Akidwa, the national network of migrant women, programmed an open day including African food, music, fashion and cultural events in Aughrim Street, Dublin 7.

In response to a query on whether a flagship Africa Day event would be held next year, Dublin City Council said it remains “committed to delivering a local programme of events that celebrate Africa Day”.

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