Mid and East Antrim Council will not be sending any members on an educational study tour of Dublin to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.
Last month, members had requested that their Chief Executive research the potential for an educational historic study visit to the city, focusing on 1916 and to provide costings.
A subsequent report presented at their February monthly meeting last week, recommended a two-day study visit be undertaken on May 25–26, including a guided walking tour of iconic sites associated with the Rising.
The recommendation included the option of sending five or 10 members plus an officer at a cost of £3,094 for 10 plus an officer and driver or £1,827 for five members and officer plus driver.
But DUP Ald Gregg McKeen proposed that recommendation be rejected, stating he viewed the proposed tour as “a glorification of the Republican uprising” and claimed it was not “balanced or fair” to the Crown Forces.
He also stated: “I don’t feel we can justify the expenditure.”
When put to the vote, the proposal was carried by 26 for and 6 against (two members did not vote).
UUP Cr Stephen Nicholl, who seconded the proposal, said: “As one who supported the idea, I am very disappointed in what appears to be a one-sided representation of events”.
Supporting his remarks, TUV Cr Timothy Gaston said the proposed tour “is not reflective of my understanding of the Easter Rising”, and stated “I don’t think Council should be spending ratepayers’ money to send people”.
SDLP Cr Declan O’Loan said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the reaction from the members to what he described as a “very well constructed programme”.
“The only explanation I can come up with is that they’re absolutely politically motivated,” he said, adding: “It’s a slur on our professional officers”.
Cr O’Loan said council was taking “considerable interest” in relation to the Battle of the Somme ‘which all of us pay respect to’.
“This Council is expending considerable sums of money on trips in relation to that,” said Cr O’Loan and proposed that members accept the recommendation to go ahead with the study tour.
But DUP Cr Paul Reid said the two events “are in no way a comparison”, stating “what happened in Dublin was acts of treason”.
Seconding Cr O’Loan’s proposal, SF Cr Paul Maguire said he ‘despaired’ at “the lack of commonality”.
Also supporting Cr O’Loan, Alliance Cr Robert Logan said: “It is a significant centenary on the island of Ireland.
“I don’t think Cr O’Loan was in any way trying to compare the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme”.
When put to the vote, Ald McKeen’s proposal was carried by 26 for and 6 against.
Cr O’Loan’s proposal was defeated by a vote of six for and 26 against.