THE Sinn Fein Chairperson of Moyle District Council, Cllr McShane, has described her Vice-Chairperson, the DUP’s Cllr Robert McIlroy, as a “hero” for standing alongside her in the face of verbal attacks from loyalists in Bushmills at the weekend.
In recent days, Bushmills loyalist Derwyn Brewster, the chair of Bushmills Residents and Environmental Group, said the protest was held because there was anger in the village at what he said were Sinn Fein attacks on the Orange culture.
Police stopped the protestors from crossing bridges across the River Bush in Bushmills as the unveiling ceremony took place but a banner was unfurled saying ‘No Sinn Fein in Bushmills’ and insults were shouted at the Council delegation.
Several strongly worded remarks were also placed on social networking sites.
At a meeting of Moyle Council in Ballycastle on Monday night (August 19), there was much praise from nationalists for Cllr McIlroy’s stance.
Cllr Cara McShane said: “Cllr McIlroy is the real leader and a real hero.”
She praised Cllr McIlroy for his political leadership and for being prepared to put his “head above the parapet”.
She said comments made on Facebook about her and Cllr McIlroy were “completely disgusting”.
Cllr Paudie McShane (Independent) also wished to congratulate Cllr McIlroy.
Cllr McIlroy said there was no reason in the whole world why the Chair and Vice-Chair shouldn’t go anywhere in Moyle and he said it was time to get rid of the “broken-ness” and time to get rid of all bigotry.
He said he would have felt better if all Unionist councillors present in Bushmills on Saturday had been at the unveiling and although he said we have all been through difficult times in the Province he added: “We have got to make a start, we have left it too long. We as councillors have a responsibility to encourage our young people.”
He said if you have to take somebody to task you should use dialogue and he said they all had their own politics and he was sure his wouldn’t agree with the Sinn Fein Chairperson but he said they need to give leadership and he was supporting Cllr Cara McShane.
Cllr Donal Cunningham said “hear hear” and Cllr McShane said “thank you”.
Cllr Paudie McShane and he claimed many in Bushmills “live in fear” of some loyalist elements and he said if Unionist councillors cannot show leadership “then we are at nothing”.
Cllr Willie Graham (Ulster Unionist) said he was in the Republic on Saturday but he said he wished to “strongly condemn” the Bushmills protests.
He added: “It shouldn’t have happened and I’m very sorry at what has happened”.
Cllr Colum Thompson (Sinn Fein) said he was present in Bushmills and what happened was a “disgrace”.
He added: “Bushmills is being held back by these type of people, if anything they are damaging Bushmills as a tourist destination.”
He said there were around 40 people at that protest out of a population in Bushmills of over 1,300 and he claimed “the tail is wagging the dog in Bushmills”.
Cllr Margaret Anne McKillop (Sinn Fein) praised the Chair and Vice-Chair for showing “true leadership in Moyle”.
Cllr Joan Baird (Ulster Unionist) said that after hearing about the potential for a protest she said she suggested that the unveiling should be put off for four weeks to allow dialogue and a “cooling off” and she said it was a “very high risk strategy” to proceed with the unveiling.
She said the local community did the hard work on the scheme but yet she believed the Council took an “overbearing and oppressive approach” to the community group and she said the Chairperson had to rise above politics.
But that prompted the Chair’s brother, Cllr Paudie McShane, to slam the comments of Cllr Baird saying she was an “apologist” for what he claimed were the motives of the protestors.
He said Cllr Baird was a “disgrace” and that she was standing along with the protestors at the event.
Cllr Paudie McShane added: “See this crap here that’s what is wrong with Moyle”.
Cllr Baird denied she was part of the protest group saying she was merely observing the situation and she said she was unable to get across the river to the site of the unveiling after the way was blocked by the police.
Cllr Baird said: “I didn’t observe anything desperate happening, police were not attacked”.
Cllr Baird said the Chairperson has to earn the respect of the people and said we are living in a democracy, not a dictatorship.
Cllr Cara McShane that in the days leading up to the unveiling she heard about opposition to her presence in Bushmills and she met with members of the loyalist community from the town, Derwyn Brewster and Leanne Abernethy.
Cllr McShane said she had launched various projects in Bushmills before and in recent weeks had a “brilliant night” and was given a “Cead Mile Failte” at the Parish Centre in the town.
She said she told the loyalist delegation her name would not be on any plaque if that was their concern.
Ahead of the event she said people felt “intimidated” into not attending.
Cllr Cara McShane said verbal abuse was dished out at the event including against a Council officer.
Cllr Cara McShane said if she had delayed the unveiling it would have been “bowing to bigotry. The pace of change will not be dictated to by bully-boys.”
She said a discussion needs to be held at Moyle Public Community Safety Partnership about the role of one of its members at the Bushmills protests.
And the Chairperson said funding of a group linked to the protest in Bushmills needs to be scrutinised.
The councillor said the protestors were not reflective of the wider community in Bushmills.
Cllr Donal Cunningham (SDLP) said both the Chair and Vice-Chair of Moyle Council should be expected to be received at any event in Moyle “and if we don’t we are not democrats”.
Cllr Graham said the people of Bushmills sometimes feel “greatly squeezed” and said it is hard for Unionist councillors “to get anything through this Council”.
He said it used to be much easier to do so when they had “gentlemen” SDLP councillors to deal with.
Cllr Cara McShane said “firm evidence” is needed to back up claims that Bushmills is losing out and she said the Council operates ‘power-sharing’.
Cllr Paudie McShane (Independent) condemned protestors as a “bunch of sectarian bigots” who use Council funds to promote what they want and are not interested in good relations in Moyle.
He said protests had been held against him in Bushmills in the past.
Cllr Seamus Blaney (Independent) said he was disappointed with the Bushmills protest, particularly the presence of a banner saying ‘Sinn Fein not welcome in Bushmills’. He said he would not like to see a banner in areas like the Glens saying Unionists were not welcome.
He said some groups want to take money for schemes but don’t take any heed of wanting to build better relationships.