Funding for a Community Centre in Glenariff was approved at last night’s Council meeting, in the face of heavy opposition from the DUP, which was described as ‘naked sectarianism’ by members of Sinn Fein.
The Friends of Glenariff group had applied to council for £180,000 funding to allow the building of a brand new Sports & Community Centre to go ahead. Planning permission for the build was approved over two years ago in March 2014.
The DUP’s Trevor Clarke led the opposition to the Glenariff group receiving this funding, stating that the Guidelines state that such projects must be cross community whereas to access the site, you must walk through gates which bare the name of two IRA men who were killed in the 1920s. Something that he had discovered earlier in the when he visited the site with his colleague Cllr George Duddy.
Mr Duddy also stated his opposition to funding the project, saying that he doesn’t believe this will promote social inclusion. He also quoted the guidelines which stated council cannot fund a single identity group, which, he believes would be the case if they awarded the funding to this group.
Hitting back at the comments made by the DUP, Ballymoney Councillor Philip McGuigan said that they are basing their decision on ‘naked sectarianism’ and that they have no interest in distributing these grants fairly because they get no votes in Glenariff, Dungiven, Loughguile or Dunloy.
Councillor Cara McShane said that it was ‘very hurtful’ to listen to the comments that were being made and accused the DUP of making sure ‘not a single penny of council money goes into the Glens District.
Other councillors had some concerns about the exact nature of the funding programme, but thought that the project was worth supporting. These included Conservative Councillor David Harding, and the UUP’s Richard Holmes.
Councillor Holmes said that members were being given two options, either build and run community facilities themselves or give support to communities who are trying to help themselves. He also stated that the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre lost £750,000 last year, the same amount of money being set aside for the Capital Grants Fund.
In the end, Councillors voted to approve the funding guidelines by a margin of 17 for – 13 against.