Easter Rising trip ‘not balanced or fair’, claims DUP man

The newspaper adverts listed IRA men alongside figures from the 1916 Rising
The newspaper adverts listed IRA men alongside figures from the 1916 Rising

Mid and East Antrim Council will not be sending any members on an educational study tour of Dublin to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.

Last month, members had requested that the chief executive research the potential for an educational historic study visit to the Dublin area, focusing on 1916 and to provide costings for same.

And at February’s full council meeting on Monday, an officer recommended that a two-day study visit be undertaken on May 25 – 26, including a guided walking tour of iconic sites associated with the Rising.

The recommendation included the option of sending five or 10 members plus an officer at a cost of £3,094 for 10 plus an officer plus driver or £1,827 for five members and officer plus driver.

But Alderman Gregg McKeen proposed that the recommendation be rejected, stating he viewed the proposed study tour as “a glorification of the Republican Rising” and claimed it was not “balanced or fair” to the Crown Forces.

The DUP man also told the meeting: “I don’t feel we can justify the expenditure.”

When put to the vote, the proposal was carried by 26 for and 6 against (two members did not vote).

Ulster Unionist Cllr Stephen Nicholl, who seconded the proposal, said: “As one who supported the idea I am very disappointed. It would appear to be a one-sided representation of events”.

Supporting his remarks, Deputy Mayor Cllr Timothy Gaston said the proposed study tour “is not reflective of my understanding of the Easter Rising”.

The TUV man added: “I don’t think we should be spending ratepayers’ money to send people”.

Responding, SDLP Cllr Declan O’Loan said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the reaction from the members to what he described as “a very well constructed programme”.

“The only explanation I can come up with is that it’s absolutely politically motivated,” he said, adding: “It’s a slur on our professional officers”.

Cllr O’Loan said council was taking “considerable interest” in relation to the Battle of the Somme “which all of us have respect for”.

“This Council is expending considerable sums of money on trips in relation to that,” said Cllr O’Loan and proposed that members accept the recommendation to go ahead with the study tour.

But DUP Cllr Paul Reid said the two events “are not in any way a comparison”, stating “what happened in Dublin were acts of treason”.

Seconding Cllr O’Loan’s proposal, Sinn Fein Cllr Paul Maguire said he “despaired” at “the lack of commonality”.

Also supporting Cllr O’Loan, Alliance representative Cllr Robert Logan said: “It’s a significant centenary on the island of Ireland. I don’t think he (O’Loan) was in any way trying to compare the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme”.

When put to the vote, Ald McKeen’s proposal was carried by 26 for and 6 against (two members did not vote).

Cllr O’Loan’s proposal was defeated by a vote of six for and 26 against.