COAST Road representatives of all persuasions are on record wishing for a peaceful outcome concerning the planned Twelfth of July parade in Carnlough - and totally at odds as to how it might be achieved.
In what has predictably and very quickly become a blame game, Sinn Fein have protested at remarks made by DUP and Ulster Unionist councillors and reported in the Larne Times (February 7), while unionists accuse republicans of failing to live up to their own shared future agenda.
Our report, taken from minutes of a Larne council development meeting, caused “outrage” in Carnlough, according to Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan and Cllr James McKeown. The official record stated that the council agreed to a request from Carnlough LOL 1180 - which hosts the Braid District demonstration once in six years - for a £5,000 grant to host family events at the Largy Road “field”. Following an intervention by Cllr McKeown, it was also agreed that the lodge be asked to meet with local groups to discuss plans for the parade.
It was also reported that DUP Cllr Gregg McKeen had claimed that nationalists staying at the caravan park caused trouble when the parade was hosted in the village in 2007, and that Ulster Unionist Coast Road councillor Maureen Morrow said that participants had left Carnlough directly after the parade due to “harassment” and “the threat of violence from locals and those from outside the borough”.
Cllr McKeown had already told Cllr McKeen, in Council, that his remarks were “a great slur” on people who stayed in the village each summer. Last week, he added: “Cllr Morrow is part of the Glenlough project. It was formed to foster better relations between the youths of the two villages and for her to make statements like that is totally unacceptable and people are asking for a full apology and withdrawal of the statements made by Cllr Morrow and Cllr McKeen. There is real outrage in the local community.”
Oliver McMullan said: “She has publicly said that it was locals who were behind the problem. She has a moral duty to state where her evidence is coming from and I challenge her publicly to state the evidence.”
Invited by the Larne Times to comment, Cllr Morrow said she was working in Carnlough last time the Twelfth was held there, when the return parade had been “subjected to a protest” which had included locals and outsiders. “This created a very uncomfortable atmosphere. Businesses in the village suffered as people left directly after the parade. I know that there many local residents of all backgrounds who were deeply disappointed in the actions of the protestors that day,” she added.
“There needs to be responsible leadership given by all public representatives this time. All Coast Road councillors sit on the steering group of the Cohesion Project, which the SF councillor wrongly characterises as a youth project. Perhaps if he would turn up and participate in it he would know the wide remit the project has. It covers all age groups within our community, and has great potential to improve community relations in both coastal villages and the surrounding area. This project is very worthwhile and by being involved he may learn a lot about how to live in a truly shared society,” said Cllr Morrow, who added that she had confidence “in the common sense of the vast majority of the people in Carnlough of all religious denominations and none to work together to ensure that a peaceful, non-contentious event takes place in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance”.
Cllr McKeen said: “My remarks were informed by what I saw with my own eyes when I went to Carnlough and most of the issues at that time were coming from the caravan park, which was close to the starting point for the parade. A crowd had gathered at the caravan park and it was not a nice experience being there.”
He added that the start of the parade has been moved away from the caravan park on to the Coast Road and the parade itself entailed walking “straight through the village to the field and back”.
The DUP man said: “I would challenge Sinn Fein, that if they are serious about the shared future they keep talking about, they have to share it with members of the Orange Order as well.
“This is a very small parade, which only happens once every six years and is attended mainly by people from the Braid area. It’s not as if they are bringing people in from all over Northern Ireland.”