Republican graves group gets backing

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MOYLE Council was divided but backed, by a slim majority, to provide a seeding grant for a group which wants to examine the history around the graves of Irish Republicans in the area.

There was controversy in the Ballycastle Council chamber after ‘East Antrim National Graves’ applied for a £300 seeding grant.

New groups can apply to the Council for funding and the Council policy is to give grants because it helps stimulate developments in local communities.

And councillors were told that if the background of books is to be questioned that would need to be inserted into the official Council criteria.

But councillors heard it claimed by Independent councillor Seamus Blaney that the East Antrim National Graves group is not associated to the Dublin-based National Graves Association, of which he is a member.

He said the Dublin group is the main body in Ireland for tending to the graves of Republicans and said other “splinter groups” are not needed.

But Cllr Colum Thompson (Sinn Fein) said the Council policy is to support any new group looking for a seeding grant without questioning the motives of the group.

He said the Council had backed many groups which “wouldn’t be my cup of tea” and he said any possibility of rejection in this case was “ridiculous”.

Council Chairperson, Cllr Cara McShane (Sinn Fein), was concerned that if the application was refused it could lead to a legal challenge.

In correspondence, the East Antrim National Graves group told the Council the aim to involve local people “in their past history and helping to improve their support the local population in researching their history...and working with statutory and non-statutory agencies with the aim to promote better cross-community relations”.

Cllr Padraig McShane (Independent) said the group meets the Council criteria and there should be no objections.

Cllr Randal McDonnell (Independent) said they did not need any more ‘splinter’ groups and he didn’t want any “possible encouragement of contention” between different groups.

Regarding the Dublin-based National Graves Association, its aims are ‘to restore, where necessary, and maintain fittingly the graves and memorials of our patriot dead of every generation; to compensate those who died in the cause of Irish freedom; to complete a record of such graves and memorials’.


* Also at Moyle Council, there was news of a spruce-up for streets along the route of the Giro d’Italia cycle race which will travel through the area later this year.

Council official Esther Mulholland said several thousand pounds will be spent on sprucing up North Street in Ballycastle.

Cllr Colum Thompson (Sinn Fein) said it was good news that funding was secured for Ballycastle but unfortunate rural areas could not meet the funding criteria.

The Council agreed to write to Stormont to see if any funding can be secured for villages.

* Moyle Council has agreed to contribute £41,000 towards a ‘Revitalise’ scheme for Ballycastle.

Already, around a quarter of a million pounds of funding from government bodies has been earmarked for Ballycastle’s Castle Street.

44 premises on the street submitted applications and 38 letters of offer were sent out.

Council officer Esther Mulholland said managing the scheme has been resource-heavy for the Council

Cllr Seamus Blaney said the ‘Revitalise’ scheme was great and helped builders in tough times.

Councillors heard a number of people wondered when they would get the funding sent through.

The Council split on whether they should allocate the £41,000 at this stage or wait until a rates meeting workshop.

TUV councillor Sharon McKillop had wanted the decision delayed to the rates considerations and she said there are other schemes people would like to get through at this stage.

* Cllr Padraig McShane asked for Moyle Council to “recognise the bravery of both Red Bay Lifeboat Station and Ballycastle Coastguard’.

Concerns were raised by other councillors about highlighting the work of one arm of the emergency services over others and consideration was to be given over whether it will be a multi-faceted reception.