Nationalists object to council’s RAF freedom of borough award

A council has agreed to award the freedom of the borough to the RAF to mark its centenary year, despite opposition from nationalists.

The DUP proposal, put forward by councillor James McCorkell, was passed at the Causeway Coast and Glens council at a special sitting on Wednesday night.

The RAF Red Arrows display team at the Portrush Airwaves show in 2015

The RAF Red Arrows display team at the Portrush Airwaves show in 2015

Mr McCorkell said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by opposition from Sinn Fein, and “a bit shocked” at the decision by the SDLP to vote against the award.

The independent republican councillor Padraig McShane also objected.

He said: “The RAF is one of the armed tentacles of British imperialism that has wrought so much death and destruction throughout the globe. It and the award should be rejected at every opportunity.

“The proposal in its simplest form was geared solely towards showing the large minority nationalists and republican residents of the borough who is boss.”

Mr McCorkell told the News Letter he “wouldn’t dignify councillor McShane’s remarks with a response”.

He said he hopes the award can happen “in and around the time of the airshow in Portrush”, scheduled for the first weekend in September.

In his speech on Wednesday evening, Mr McCorkell highlighted the history of the RAF in the local area, particularly during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War Two.

“RAF Ballykelly opened in June 1941 during the Second World War as an airfield for RAF Coastal Command,” he said.

“A year earlier, RAF Limavady, known locally as Aghanloo airfield had been opened.

“Both stations played a vital role as part of RAF Coastal Command in the fight against Nazi U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean.

“By the end of the war, squadrons stationed in Ballykelly had been responsible for sinking 12 U-boats and destroying many more.

“Churchyards across the borough are memory to and are the final resting place of those who lost their lives working in this place – Christ Church and St Mary’s in Limavady town to name just two.”

Mr McCorkell added: “The RAF, the men and woman who served in the RAF, and indeed their families are intertwined in the DNA of our community.

“Without even going into what the RAF does for our Airwaves airshow, the service they gave and the service the RAF currently gives makes them and the regiment worthy recipients of the freedom of our borough in this their centenary year.”