Why the DUP queried development in Glens memorial IRA park

Alderman John Finlay
Alderman John Finlay

I write as a DUP member of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council to draw your readers attention to the circumstances surrounding Council approval of public funding for a development on an IRA memorial park in the Glens of Antrim.

I do so for two reasons.

Firstly, it casts light on Sinn Fein’s selective approach to the equality agenda and their continuing desire to glorify terrorists. Secondly, it reminds us once again of the weakness and ineptitude of the other parties, including the Ulster Unionist Party and Alliance.

At a recent Council meeting, members were asked to approve guidance that would “make provision for the competitive allocation of £750,000 of public funds to external organisations for community, sport and leisure infrastructure projects across the Borough”.

My party expressed concerns about the process by which grant funding is made available to outside bodies. We also expressed concern about equality impact assessment and the checks and balances within the funding guidance to ensure compliance with section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

In particular, we sought assurances about a proposal from “Friends of Glenariffe” who were seeking £180,000 from the grant scheme towards the replacement of Oisin’s GAA centre with a combined community and sports facility at the McAllister-McVeigh Memorial Park. We questioned the robustness of council diligence in respect of this funding application, as the park on which the replacement sports and community centre will be situated is named after two IRA men who were engaged in an ambush on British forces on 24 May 1922 when they themselves were killed. Despite the very obvious sensitivities surrounding this application, it seems to us that it is being pushed through with undue haste and inadequate scrutiny.

Sinn Fein boast of their commitment to the equality agenda. But, of course, their leader, Gerry Adams, let the cat out of the bag when he referred to equality as a “Trojan Horse”. Sinn Fein members of Council displayed incredulity and, indeed, hysteria when the DUP dared to question the “Friends of Glenariffe” proposal. Their reaction merely confirms that, for them, equality is a one-way street and that the Trojan Horse is to be deployed as and when necessary.

We were greatly disappointed by the failure of the other parties to stand with us on this issue. Instead, the Ulster Unionists, Alliance, Conservatives and SDLP all supported Sinn Fein. Given the tough talk from their party leader in recent times, the Ulster Unionist attitude on Council was frankly astonishing.

The DUP, meanwhile, will continue to offer real leadership, and we will be challenging the funding for the IRA memorial park through the appropriate channels.

• Alderman John Finlay, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council