Challenge to WWI group

Carla Lockhart MLA and Cllr Mark Baxter at Churchill Park
Carla Lockhart MLA and Cllr Mark Baxter at Churchill Park

A move by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to form a working group to commemorate the end of World War One has been challenged by Sinn Fein.

The party has ‘called in’ the recent motion which means legal advice will have to be taken on the issue.

Sinn Féin group leader, Councillor Fergal Lennon, said: “The Sinn Féin team participated in centenary working groups in 2016 and supported the funding of events to commemorate our shared history of 1916.

“This motion to reconvene the Somme working group in 2017 has not been brought forward in the same spirit as parties collectively approached the year of centenaries.

“In 2016 over £100,000 was spent commemorating the Somme. This was at the expense of the rate payer. The irony is that this motion is being brought forward by those opposed to any increase in rates. However, such additional spend has not been allocated for in this year’s budget.”

Councillor Mark Baxter who proposed the group responded: “It’s very disappointing to learn, although unsurprising, that Sinn Fein have called the decision of council in to be reviewed by our legal team . The call in process is in place when 15% of the council body or more feel that a decision is disadvantaging one section of the community. How can a dignified series of events marking the centenary of the end of the Great War be viewed as sectarian?”

He added: “Many men from this district from all sides fought side by side and died in their thousands and indeed are buried side by side in numerous grave yards across the world .

“Again we are witnessing Sinn Fein trying to re write our history. We must not let the memory of these hero’s and our relatives be tarnished by some misguided notion that only those from the unionist tradition fought for king and country.

“The ironic thing is that by calling this in shows a real lack of tolerance to those who wish to pay respect to true soldiers who didn’t hide their faces when going into battle. I’ve no doubt the legal challenge will fall but am sorry that there are those who use those brave men’s memory for cheap political shots and quick headlines.”

A Council spokesperson confirmed the decision has been ‘called in’ and council procedures require that legal advice is taken.