Unionists accused of 'overreacting' to 1916 memorial in Co Antrim

Sinn Fein councillor James McKeown at the 1916 memorial in Carnlough. Picture by Hugh Russell
Sinn Fein councillor James McKeown at the 1916 memorial in Carnlough. Picture by Hugh Russell

A council has confirmed that a monument in Co Antrim marking the centenary of the Easter Rising is erected on its land.

The three-foot-high stone memorial was unveiled in the mainly nationalist village of Carnlough last weekend.

The event was attended by Sinn Féin assembly member Oliver McMullan and local councillor James McKeown.

Unionists have been accused of "overreacting" after one councillor branded the memorial “provocative”.

Images of the 1916 Proclamation signatories are included on the stone, which is located near the harbour in the seaside village.

A spokesman for East Antrim Borough Council last night said it “appears to be less than one metre (high) and therefore does not require planning permission”.

However, it confirmed that the memorial has been erected on its property.

A spokesman said: “Council was not aware of either the structure itself or of the commemorative event that took place until after the Easter weekend had already passed even though the land concerned is in council ownership.”

TUV councillor Ruth Wilson said the commemorative stone is divisive.

“This is provocative and will only seek to heighten tensions and damage community relations at this time,” she said.

However, Mr McKeown said local groups had helped fund the commemorative stone.

“As usual they (unionists) are over reacting,” he said.

“If something doesn’t fall into the unionist perception in east Antrim it's to be knocked and frowned on.

“We are in 2016 and the nationalist community in east Antrim has as much right to remember events in this country as unionists.”

The East Antrim councillor added that there are strong connections between the Glens of Antrim and the 1916 Rising.

There was controversy in 2012 when the former Larne Borough Council erected a huge crown at a roundabout in the town to mark the British Queen’s diamond jubilee.

It later emerged that eight-metre replica crown did not have planning permission. Planners later said it could remain for two years.

Larne council merged with Carrickfergus and Ballymena councils last year to form East Antrim Borough Council.