Members of the Corporate Policy and Resources Committee were informed yesterday evening that only 55 individuals provided responses to an Equality impact assessment in relation to the proposed NI 100 Stained Glass Window Design for Coleraine Town Hall. Of those responses, 26 were from members of the public and 29 were from staff members.
The window was commissioned as part of the council’s Northern Ireland Centenary programme.
The report was presented by Stella Gilmartin Associates, who was appointed to plan and carry out a widespread consultation process with all stakeholders that could be impacted by the window. Throughout Stella’s verbal report update yesterday evening she mentioned that a number of people suggested changing a number of the items. Ms Gilmartin went on to say that overall there were two main issues, that being the ‘UDA crest and the RUC crest’, being the two items that causued the most dislike or non-acceptance.
Soon after the comment, Alderman Michelle Knight McQuillan called a point of order informing Ms Gilmartin that the ‘UDA and the UDR are very different’.
In a statement Alderman Michelle Knight McQuillan said “I have been involved in the working group to design this window from the outset. It should have been in place for May 2022 to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland but was held up time and time again. Despite huge efforts being made to ensure it was a balanced representation of our Borough, Sinn Fein still cannot bear any reference to Northern Ireland and would seek to waste the money spent developing this project by attempting to frustrate the completion.
“It is also concerning that an outside consultant referred to the Ulster Defence Regiment as the UDA during the meeting. Whilst this was clarified and an apology issued I hope that this mistake was not made during any of the public consultation meetings. Such a reference could have a significant impact on public opinion.
“I want to see the window finally erected and the centenary of Northern Ireland marked within the Borough.”
DUP Councillor Sharon McKillop later accused Sinn Fein of engaging in another attempt to rewrite history following comments by Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Bateson.
In a statement Alderman McKillop said, “As Veterans Champion of the Causeway Coast and Glens Committee I will not let misrepresentations of those who served here in Northern Ireland go unchallenged, and I will always stand against Sinn Fein’s deliberate attempts to rewrite history.
“Unfortunately, an outside consultant at the meeting referred to the Ulster Defence Regiment as the UDA during discussions, although an apology was offered for this. The actions of Sinn Fein Councillors however were yet another attempt to advance their warped tale of what happened during the Troubles and as Veterans Champion of the Causeway Coast & Glens Borough, I will not let it go unchallenged.
“Whilst some in Sinn Fein like to present themselves as representative of the entire community, we see the real republican mindset on display through outbursts like this.
“The Ulster Defence Regiment served with bravery and distinction throughout the troubles, with UDR soldiers risking their lives day and daily to protect all communities. These were men and women who were facing danger not just whilst they were on duty, but who lived with a constant threat on their lives simply because they stood against terrorism.
“The actions of the UDR stand in stark contrast with those who Cllr Bateson has eulogised in the past. He was subject to a vote of no confidence during his tenure as Mayor in 2019 for celebrating a convicted terrorist.
“This is the twisted mindset of Sinn Fein where they attempt to demonise those who wore a uniform and stood in defence of law and order but claim there was no alternative to burning a 26-year-old woman alive in her clothes shop and describing those responsible as “brave”.
“Both Cllr Bateson and the Sinn Fein chair of the Committee demonstrated the kind of disrespect and insult that anyone who stands against the narrow republican viewpoint will be subjected to.”
The vote carried 8 for the proposal and 7 against.