Derry CEO told she can't compete for Irish awards
A Derry businesswoman has revealed she was removed from the finals of an Irish awards ceremony because she lives in the North.
Bubblebum founder and CEO Grainne Kelly said she was contacted "out of the blue" to be told she was a finalist in the Irish Women's Business Awards.
The company behind the awards is UK-based Creative Oceanic, which holds awards ceremonies across Canada, the UK and Ireland. Mrs Kelly's company makes car booster seats for children and distributes them worldwide.
She told BBC Radio Ulster she had been asked to promote the awards on social media.
After not hearing from the awards for a number of weeks, she contacted them to ask for details of the presentation night, only to be told "because you don't live in Ireland we can't actually have you as a finalist in the award".
Mrs Kelly said she "was not complaining" at not being nominated, but told the organisers, "last time I checked I actually do live in Ireland".
The businesswoman said she had won all-Ireland awards in the past with no issue.
She said that she told the organisers she lived in Derry, but was told "that's not in the South of Ireland".
"Ireland is an island, it's the island of Ireland split into two, it doesn't matter if you live in Northern Ireland or Southern Ireland," Mrs Kelly told them.
Mrs Kelly claimed the organisers told her that they were planning Northern Ireland awards, which she declined to be part of. "Once you are doing an all-Ireland award, a Northern Ireland award isn't as competitive, you want it to be as competitive as it possibly can," she said. "Derry is right on the border, I could live in Donegal if I want five days a week," she joked. "I'm very confused about my identity now with all this Brexit chat. I don't know whether I'm allowed to be British, am I allowed to be Irish?"
A spokesperson for Creative Oceanic said the Irish Women's Awards aim to "recognise women from the Republic of Ireland" and that a separate ceremony for women in the North will take place this year.
"The Irish Women's Awards 2019 aim to recognise women from the Republic of Ireland and are either resident, or have a registered business fully-operating, in the Republic."
The company added: "It is vital that we create a level playing field and create boundaries for the smooth running of the awards and for the sake of fairness that all finalists satisfy the criteria mentioned above.
"There are exceptional women in Northern Ireland and Creative Oceanic is delighted to announce the inaugural Northern Ireland Women's Awards in Belfast later this year."