A ROW has erupted between Causeway Chamber of Commerce and the Chambers in Ballymoney, and Ballycastle, who are adamant that Causeway does not speak for them.
The President of Ballymoney Chamber of Commerce, Mrs Winifred Mellet feels so strongly about it that she has called for Causeway Chamber to change its name to Coleraine Chamber.
This view has been keenly endorsed by the chairman of Ballycastle Chamber, Mr John McGill, who said that there was “significant difference in interest” between his Chamber and Causeway.
Roe Valley, the other Chamber in the area, told The Chronicle that it was “determined to keep its autonomy” in matters relevant to Limavady.
Triggering the spat is a poster advertising the latest in a series of 'Chamber Local' events organised by Causeway Chamber, that took place this morning (Tuesday January 31) in Ballymoney's Acorn Centre.
Referring to the 'Chamber Local' poster, Mrs Mellet said: “I felt when I saw the poster that it gives the impression that it is an event organised by the Ballymoney Chamber of Commerce, when it is not. Ballymoney Chamber was not even consulted about it.”
Mr McGill agreed, saying: “The poster is ambiguous; if the poster had said Ballycastle not Ballymoney we would be resisting as Ballymoney is doing!”
In a statement to this paper, Causeway Chamber would not be drawn on their choice of poster, merely saying the event was an opportunity for local businesses to meet the Chamber team.
However the issues run deeper than a poster, and The Chronicle understands that concerns within the smaller chambers have been brewing for some time.
Previous remarks by Causeway Chamber President Murray Bell, opposing Brexit, (see Chronicle October 25 story headlined “Brexit: 'a bad move') do not reflect feeling about this issue in Ballymoney Chamber, according to Mrs Mellet.
“We haven't discussed Brexit, we aren't political,” she said.
Last March Causeway Chamber launched a series 'Chamber Local' events that have been taking place at 12 locations across the Borough since then.
“This is your opportunity to meet other businesses within your local area, meet the Mayor and the Causeway Chamber team.” organisers say.
The first one was held in Ballycastle, on Tuesday March 13 at Causeway Enterprise Centre,
with Mr McGill saying: “We were not consulted and no reference was made to Ballycastle Chamber at all.”
Mr McGill continued: “There is a significant difference in interest between the Causeway Chamber and the Ballycastle Chamber.
“Several years ago, moves were made to establish Causeway Chamber to represent the entire area.
“Ballycastle, Ballymoney and Limavady resisted this. We in Ballycastle felt the Ballycastle Chamber could better represent bushinesses in our town, that are mostly small family run independent businesses, a situation very different from the bigger businesses in Coleraine, many of which are UK wide chains or multi nationals.”
Causeway chamber has almost no members in Ballycastle.
“We felt the Causeway Chamber wasn't going to pay heed to small shops, who wouldn't have much say compared to the larger businesses in Coleraine.”
“The concern is that they are trying to recruit additional members to increase their clout when lobbying with Council or other bodies, to further the agenda of big businesses in Coleraine.”
Mrs Mellet, who feels that Ballymoney is in exactly the same position, said: “People are getting the impression that Causeway Chamber speak for the Ballymoney Chamber and businesses here. That is not the case, they do not.
“Who do Causeway Chamber represent? Who do they speak for?” she wanted to know!
“Ballymoney Chamber has 45 members the Causeway Chamber has a handful of members in Ballymoney town and I understand it's the same in Ballycastle and Limavady.
“Causeway Chamber members have not attended any of the many events organised by Ballymoney Chamber.
No help has ever come from Causeway, nor have they ever asked, Christmas, Halloween, Santa, Markets etc are organised by members working hard and voluntarily to promote Ballymoney.”
She continued: “Ballycastle Chamber share the same concern that Causeway Chamber are trying to increase members to push a Coleraine agenda.”
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