War memorial planned for mainly nationalist Co Derry town
THE Royal British Legion has revealed plans to build a new five-metre-high memorial to British soldiers killed in both world wars in a majority-nationalist Co Derry town.
The organisation’s Magherafelt branch has lodged an application with planners to locate the cenotaph in Broad Street, the market town’s busiest thoroughfare.
Modelled on a similar memorial in London, it would include a socket for a temporary flagpole for the “lowering and raising of the Union flag” during remembrance ceremonies.
The legion (RBL) has said panels bearing the names of people killed during the first and second world wars will be fixed to all four sides of the memorial, which will bear the inscription “Our glorious dead”.
The application refers only to those killed during both world wars and makes no mention of UDR, RUC and British soldiers killed during the Troubles.
A spokesman for the RBL said there “has never been any talk about putting Troubles names onto it”.
If the proposal is passed it will sit on a footpath which divides four lanes of traffic on Broad Street.
While Magherafelt has never had a war cenotaph, there are similar memorials in nearby towns including Castledawson and Moneymore.
There are also plans to place a permanent memorial in Tobermore, a mainly unionist village close to Magherafelt.
Those behind the Magherafelt plan say they originally wanted to locate the structure in Market Street but were told by Mid Ulster District Council representatives that Broad Street “would be the preferred option”.
The RBL says around 350 people from the wider Magherafelt area died during the First World War and the names of around 180 of those do not appear on existing monuments.
It said it wrote to the former Magherafelt District Council in 2012 but received no reply.
It contacted the new Mid Ulster District Council last year, which is also nationalist controlled, and has since held talks with officials involved with a major public realm scheme currently underway in the town.
SDLP councillor Martin Kearney said on Sunday his party’s priority “is respect and dignity for the dead”.
“It’s our understanding it’s for those who fought and died in two world wars and we will support it.”
A spokesman for Sinn Féin said the party has yet to discuss the proposal.