Councillors block move to reinstate Easter Rising memorial

The Easter Rising Memorial in Carnlough. INLT 25-654-CON
The Easter Rising Memorial in Carnlough. INLT 25-654-CON

Unionist councillors have voted down a proposal to reinstate an Easter Rising memorial in Carnlough.

The stone structure was originally erected in 2016 on council land without planning permission.

Featuring pictures of Easter Rising protagonists and a flag pole bearing the tricolour, it was branded by unionists as “illegal” and “provocative”.

Officials from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council later removed the memorial from its spot overlooking Carnlough Harbour.

A consultation was then launched to gather the views of local residents on reinstating the structure.

It is understood that of the 177 who responded, 75 percent expressed support for some sort of replacement memorial to be erected.

The responses formed the basis for the council Equality Working Group's call to discuss submitting a revised proposal, which was heard at Monday evening's meeting of the local authority.

However, a DUP recommendation not to proceed was backed by 26 votes in favour and four against, with three abstentions.

A statement issued on behalf of DUP members of the council read: "The Democratic Unionist Party are not prepared to countenance any memorial to terrorism within the Mid and East Antrim Borough. We are clear that such a memorial would be insensitive to the many victims of Republican terrorism. Erroneous claims of parity, with memorials commemorating the sacrifice of our armed forces in past wars and conflicts, are insulting and offensive.

"Opposition to this proposed memorial has come from a variety of sources, including some of the local traders who are concerned about the loss of business from Ballymena and the surrounding area."

Some residents who were opposed to the reinstatement of the memorial "felt too intimidated to speak out", the statement added.

A spokesman for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: "An application to erect a memorial in Carnlough was received by council in June 2016, to be considered under the Commemorations and Memorials Framework.

"As per council procedure, council's cross-party equality working group commissioned a process of consultation with the local community to seek their views, and in parallel obtained further information from the applicant.

"Working with an independent expert on equality, a range of opportunities to engage in the consultation were made available, beginning in December 2016.

"All comments and information gathered through the consultation process have been collated and presented to the equality working group by the independent expert."