A Sinn Fein councillor says unionists who criticise Carnlough’s new Easter Rising memorial are “hypocrites” guity of a “knee-jerk reaction.”
Cllr James McKeown hit out after the memorial, which was erected without going before the council’s planning and equality committees, was dubbed “divisive” and “provocative” by nationalists.
The unveiling of the structure on council land on Saturday March 26 was attended by Cllr McKeown and sitting Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan and Councillor James McKeown.
Cllr McKeown said that the memorial was erected by the East Antrim National Graves Association, and was funded by the local community.
“I would ask if those councillors and would-be MLAs calling for the removal of the memorial now calling for the removal of all other sites with memorials, flags, flag poles and murals within the borough?” he told the Times.
“There are plenty of other memorials on council property and the majority wouldn’t be official.
“The councillors calling for the removal of the memorial because they don’t like it would have to get rid of all such things; they can’t pick and choose. I think they are being very hypocritical, divisive and selective regarding the Easter Rising memorial.”
Cllr McKeown described claims that the memorial had heightened community tension in the Carnlough area as “laughable.”
“The councillors who are complaining need to look at the other murals and items throughout the borough which are divisive, offensive and intimidating to certain sections of the community,” he said.
“I don’t think a small monument in Carnlough which is less than 900mm tall and about 800mm wide will add to the security problems.”
Cllr McKeown said that he was “not planning” to resign from the council’s planning and equality committees over the issue.
“They seem to be under the impression that it was me who put the memorial up but I didn’t, I advised those putting it up on how to proceed and they didn’t have any confidence that a project of this nature would get a fair or full hearing given council’s response to marking the centenary,” he stated.
“It has been confirmed by the council that the memorial didn’t require planning due to its size. Other things, such as the crown, were put up without planning permission or consultation and then retrospective planning permission was sought so I find the complaints about the Easter Rising memorial very hypocritical.”
A council spokesman said the new memorial had “broken the council procedures but not the law.”
He stated: “The Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations (NI) 2015 permits the display of a national flag of any country on a single flagstaff without the need for consent.”
He added that the law “permits the erection of a wall up to two metres high without the need for planning approval, although in some instances this is limited to one metre high. The memorial structure appears to be less than 1m and therefore does not require planning permission.”
The spokesman said that council was unaware of the structure and commemorative event until after they took place.
“Council has previously agreed a policy framework on memorials and commemorations which sets out the process to consider such requests. Council hasn’t received any complaints from the public at the moment,” he stated.