Internet plan to discredit Rathlin Island

A Co. Down businessman is set to plunge Rathlin Island into its second image crisis within weeks after claims that his life has been made a misery by vandals destroying his property.

Richard Price Stephens (64) says he is planning a world-wide internet campaign aimed at discrediting Rathlin where, he claims, he has been been issued with threats and had his property damaged in an ongoing campaign of intimidation.

Mr. Price Stephens says he will put a link on to Rathlin websites through the major search engines telling people of his experiences.

He told a meeting of Moyle DPP in the Marine Hotel last week that he would use his publishing business to make posters of the damage caused and place them on the major search engines with links to Rathlin Island.

"That means that every person who calls up Rathlin Island on their computer will get a link to my message. The world will know exactly what is happening on the Island," he said.

Coming days after the controversy surrounding the Royal visit of Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, when they were refused lunch at the Island's only hotel, the news was greeted with dismay by some DPP members who urged Mr. Price Stephens to delay any action until they convened a Neighbourhood meeting on the Island later in the summer.

But Mr. Price Stephens later made it clear to the Times that his patience had finally snapped and that he would be going ahead with his campaign.

"Every action requires a reaction and this is what I plan to do. I intend to stand my ground. I reported these matters to the police and they have done all they can but if you do not have the evidence it dies and then becomes a statistic.

"I am involved in publishing posters which go throughout the world to places such as Afghanistan, Australia and America. I am now going to use the likes of Ebay, Amazon etc., and where there is a section on Rathlin Island, every time this sort of thing happens I will make a poster of it and place it on the website. The link will tell people exactly what's going on," Mr. Price Stephens said.

He described the Island as 'fantastic' and accepted that only a few people were responsible for the intimidation.

He then added: "Rathlin is not just full of Puffins; there is an element of cruelty."

Earlier, Mr. Price Stephens gave a detailed account of the campaign against him. He said he had windows broken in a caravan and two weeks later, someone gained access to the caravan and sprayed the inside with black grease. Offensive comments were daubed on the side of the van telling him to get off the Island.

Mr. Price Stephens said he had a second caravan smashed up and that two of his cars were damaged, one of which was pushed into the sea while the other had a message written on the side again telling him to get off the Island.

Chief Inspector John Magill said police required evidence to bring people to court and that's why there had been no prosecutions at this stage, but he stressed that a stretch of water did not prevent him from policing the Island.

"We can get there very quickly," he said.

DPP chairman, Robert McIlroy, said they would be holding a meeting on the Island and he thought it might be best if Mr. Price Stephens withheld his threat until that meeting took place.

Agreeing, Mr. Michael Molloy stressed that he had every sympathy with Mr. Price Stephens, but he did not think it prudent at this stage to carry out the course of action planned.

"I have some reservations about this line of action. It would damage the good reputation the Island has bult up for many many years in welcoming visitors and tourists.

"This is something we as a community would need to think about. I would like to see this addressed when we go to Rathlin in August.

"I appeal to you to put your line of action on hold until we meet then, but I stress I am very sympathetic to your problems," Mr. Molloy said.