Derry businesswoman removed from award finalists list for 'not being from Ireland'
A Derry businesswoman has revealed she was removed from the finals of an Irish awards ceremony because she lives in Northern Ireland.
Bubblebum founder and CEO Grainne Kelly told BBC Radio Ulster 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 are UK-based Creative Oceanic, which holds awards ceremonies across Canada, UK and Ireland.
Mrs Kelly's company makes car booster seats for children and distributes them worldwide.
She said 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.
She said that the snub was akin to banning people from Scotland taking part in UK wide awards.
Mrs Kelly claimed the organisers told her that they were planning Northern Ireland awards in the future, 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.
"There are so many people that are Irish that live in America, therefore technically they are saying if you live in America and you're Irish you can't enter either."
Mrs Kelly claimed that woman who lived around Belfast remained nominated for an award at the event.
"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, what am I allowed to be?"
Mrs Kelly said the incident was a "miscommunication" from a company that "didn't understand the politics of Northern Ireland".
However, a spokesperson for Creative Oceanic said that the Irish Women's Awards 2019 aim to "recognise women from the Republic of Ireland" and that a separate awards ceremony for women in Northern Ireland will take place this year.
"Creative Oceanic is at the forefront of delivering unique campaigns and event strategies in thirteen different cities across the UK, Ireland and Canada; proving to be a definitive service in promoting meritorious professionals and developing brands by understanding the needs
and expectations of various industries," the company said in a statement.
"We previously launched the Scottish Women’s Awards (Glasgow) which are already in their third year, the English Women’s Awards Midlands (Leicester), The English Women’s Awards North (Manchester) as well as The Welsh Women’s Awards which will take place in March 2019.
"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 of Ireland.
"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. Northern Ireland has equally many female role-models and success stories and we should not underestimate what the women working and living there have achieved.
"Our intention is not to discriminate or disqualify anyone from participating in the awards ceremonies as everyone is more than welcomed to get involved, however our criteria has to be met and this is done through due diligence on the finalists at an early stage. We have a vision to promote inspirational women and celebrate their achievements; and are delighted with the response and are not afraid to try things in a different way to achieve our goals."