A stormy debate on whether Moyle District Council should appoint an Armed Forces Community Advocate on to a pensions body for Northern Ireland veterans led to one member declaring that the council had “got into the biggest sectarian row which was threatening to split them down the middle.”
Councillor Seamus Blaney’s comments followed a motion from TUV representative, Sharon McKillop, calling for the council to nominate a member on to the NI Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee.
Presenting the motion which was in response to a presentation from the NIVA and PC earlier in the month, Councillor McKillop said there was a great need to support the N.I. veterans.
She spoke of the lack of financial contributions to them and quoted figures showing how many disabled widowed and the amount of compensation payments were made to veterans in Northern Ireland.
Councillor Paudie McShane immediately proposed that the council “did not endorse these groups because in essence, we are supporting wars.”
He went on: “They say these wars in the Middle East are all about democracy, but with one and a half million murdered the very idea that we should support this motion should be scrapped completely out of the council.
“There are numerous bodies to help veterans and there is absolutely no need for this council to endorse war. We should be sending out a strong message that we support peace,” the Independent councillor said.
Councillor Blaney said the council had already appointed a representative to the Terroritoal Army before declaring: “This council has got into the biggest sectarian row. If we keep on like this we are going to be completely split down the middle.”
Councillor Joan Baird supported the motion and said that many young people went to war when it was not their decision but that of their political masters.
“Young people are the casualties and a free world would not exist and we would be living in a fascist state were it not for people like this who risked their lives for us,” she said.
Councillor Paudie McShane intervened again declaring: “It’s about time that society woke up to reality. We don’t need to be dumbed down by this c..p that comes before the council.
“Wars are only for the benefit of Wall Street and the Golden Mile in London - it’s the big companies that benefit.”
Councillor Donal Cunningham suggested an amendment that the council might consider expanding the role of the Territorial Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve Association representative to include also being the Armed Forces Community Advocate thus incorporating all added welfare issues and responsibilities.
The chair, Councillor Sandra Hunter, agreed after which Councillor Robert McIlroy said sectarianism was driving a wedge through the council.
“The veterans are the heroes,” he said.
When a vote was taken ten were in favour of Cllr. Cunningham’s suggestion while four voted against.
Afterwards, Glens Sinn Fein councillor Colum Thompson slammed the decision.
Councillor Thompson said: “Given the appalling record of The British Armed Forces around the world I am horrified that Moyle Council has chosen to appoint an Armed Forces Community Advocate. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have lost their lives in the joint British and American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya over the past fifteen years.
“The British army have been responsible for terrible atrocities here in The North, you only have to look at their actions in Ballymurphy in August 1971 and Derry in January 1972 and in the catalogue of other incidents, in The North, over the past forty years where innocent victims were brutally murdered by the British army.
“I am disgusted that the SDLP gave their support to this proposal, it makes a mockery of their party claim to support the families of the victims of the security forces and proves just how directionless they are as a political party. Appointing an Armed Forces Community Advocate is a deeply divisive step, it is an insult to the relatives of the many innocent people who were murdered by the British forces and it is totally unrepresentative of the opinion of the majority of people in Moyle.”