Council must embrace decade of centenaries - Hardy

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Mid & East Antrim Council must “embrace equality and take a dignified and inclusive approach” to the decade of centenaries, SF Councillor Patrice Hardy has said.

Her comments came in the wake of the local authority’s January monthly meeting at which members were given an update by their Chief Executive on the heritage project -‘On The Brink’- which relates to the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

At the meeting, Cllr Hardy said she had asked at the previous monthly meeting for a report to be drawn up on her suggestion that Council mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising locally with a separate civic event and queried why that had not been done.

Responding, the Chief Executive Anne Donaghy stated: “My report is on the project, On the Brink, which I feel I was directed to do. Certainly I have also taken on board the comments that were made that day.”

Mrs Donaghy also pointed out that ‘On The Brink’ would have “some civic presence” in the form of the Mayor and councillors at the launch of the ‘1916 Impact on Legacy’ exhibition at the Museum in The Braid on March 24 after which it will would go on tour.

She said ‘On the Brink’ was the second part of a three year project, was Heritage Lottery Funded and related to the events of 1916, particularly The Easter Rising and the Somme, their impact and legacy.

“In a very historic way it reflects, very factually, the period of the Easter Rising and The Somme. I think members will be very suitably impressed,” she said.

However, Cllr Hardy, who pointed out that Sinn Fein supported the ‘On The Brink’ project, stated: “I wanted a further step taken - to attach a civic event to the historic work already done”.

She called for a report on such an event to be drawn up and an officer appointed to oversee it and was seconded by fellow SF Councillor James McKeown.

A majority of 32 councillors, however, voted in favour of a proposal by Cllr Stephen Nicholl, seconded by Cllr A. P. Wilson to accept the officer recommendation that the 1916 Impact and Legacy Exhibition be launched on March 24 in Ballymena and that the Chief Executive organises appropriate speakers.

The proposal also included the suggestion made during the meeting by Cllr Declan O’Loan that Council consider providing councillors with an opportunity to travel to “a suitable event” relating to the Easter Rising as they do in relation to The Somme.

In a statement issued the following day, Cllr Hardy said: “It is extremely disappointing that Mid and East Antrim council wish only to have a civic ceremony for the Somme centenary yet none for events surrounding Easter 1916.

“Both events were formative parts of our shared history and both are intrinsically part of the decade of centenaries.

“Sinn Féin will be seeking a meeting the Chief Executive of the council at the earliest opportunity to establish how any such civic event can be brought forward,” she added.