Northern Ireland

Call for consultation on proposed British army memorial

Unionists at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council want to buy 'Ghost Tommies' for the borough
Unionists at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council want to buy 'Ghost Tommies' for the borough Unionists at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council want to buy 'Ghost Tommies' for the borough

NATIONALISTS have called for a consultation to be carried out by a Co Antrim council if a motion to buy and erect memorials to British soldiers killed during the First World War is passed.

The DUP backed motion is set to go before a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council next Monday.

The motion by DUP councillor Billy Ashe calls for the council to work in partnership with the Royal British Legion to “purchase and install a number of ‘Ghost Tommies’ at suitable locations across the borough” in the run up to the centenary of the ending of the First World War.

Ghost Tommies are silhouettes of military figures promoted by the charity Remembered as part of its `there but not there campaign'.

It has also emerged that the Royal British Legion in Whitehead, Co Antrim, has asked the council for permission to place one of the designs beside its war memorial in the village to mark the ending of the war.

According to the Remembered website a 6ft aluminium figure costs £750.

It is not known what style or how many of the figures Mid and East Antrim council intends to buy if the motion passes.

Memorials have proven to be a divisive issue for Mid and East Antrim council in the past.

There was controversy in 2016 when council workers removed a 3ft memorial put on council land without permission to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising in the mainly nationalist village of Carnlough.

At the time unionists criticised the memorial.

An application to replace it was later lodged with planners.

An extensive consultation process involving newspaper ads, public notices and letters to all 563 households in the village was launched asking if the memorial should return.

It is understood around 75 per cent of responses expressed support for some sort of replacement memorial.

A DUP proposal not to proceed was later backed by 26 votes to four, with three abstentions.

Nationalists have now said they expect similar consultations to apply to all memorials.

Sinn Féin councillor James McKeown last night said “the same consultation done with the Carnlough monument should be followed with any other monument.

“They all should follow the same consultation procedures,” he said.

The Irish News understands a replacement memorial has been temporarily put up in Carnlough over Easter to mark the 102nd anniversary of the rising.

Sources say it is due to be removed this weekend.

It is understood a new planning application to make the memorial permanent is also currently being drawn up.

May Beattie, who has seconded the Ghost Tommies motion, declined to comment ahead of Monday’s meeting.