The Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme will be kept separate in terms of funding for historical and remembrance projects to mark the events of 1916 in the Causeway Coast and Glens council.
A lengthy debate, followed at a special meeting held last Wednesday night. A motion was passed to award £24,000 to the Ballymoney Cultural and Heritage project for a Somme commemorative project, along with a further £7,000 to a project in Coleraine and a further £9,000 to other groups who may wish to come forward for commemorative events on the Somme.
DUP Councillor Trevor Clarke proposed funding for the groups. He said: “I think everybody understands the importance of what happened from the 1st of July, 1916 onwards and in particular on that date to the people of this island and the people of this Borough.”
Sinn Féin councillor Philip McGuigan explained his party’s opposition: “There are rate payers in this Borough from a nationalist and Republican perspective who want the Battle of the Somme to be remembered, alongside the 1916 Easter Rising and other events that took that affected citizens on this island and in this Borough. I have a number of concerns that I would like addressed on this. For example, the legal process. Councillor Clarke talked about handing out upwards of tens of thousands of pounds to two or three groups and then having a competive process for a remaining amount. I am not a legal brain but that sounds absolutely crazy. Certain groups are getting money without competition and certain groups are facing competition.”
Despite concerns from some members, cllr Clarke’s proposal was agreed.
SDLP Councillor Gerry Mullan said: “In terms of the process itself, I think it is absolutely putting the cart before the horse. We have taken a vote before a word has been spoken about this. We have really no issue with the recommendation itself. I personally have stood in Thiepval Forest on a number of occasions where people were mowed down in their thousands. I have stood at the Menin Gate. I didn’t need the history lesson that we got from some councillors tonight. I absolutely understand what happened, who died and for what. I think there are issues around the process that need to be discussed but just because I voted against this proposal don’t think that I am against any commemoration of the Somme.”
TUV Councillor William Blair said: “I would like to clarify one or two things here. The difference between the Battle of Britain in France where all the Irish regiments fought for their liberties was that the Easter Uprising in Dublin was a terrorist uprising. It is a terrorist uprising from then until now. What we are objecting to here is to make sure they are not put together.”