Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Loyalist protest halts opening of new playing fields

The official opening of playing fields in Bushmills was postponed last night after loyalists staged a demonstration.

Crowds gathered outside the Dundarave playing fields to protest against the official opening by the chair of Moyle council, Padraig McShane, in the predominantly unionist village of Bushmills.

It is believed demonstrators ripped a plaque off the wall which was to be unveiled by Mr McShane.

Mr McShane said when he arrived at the scene he was told by police that protesters would try to stop him from entering the building and blamed paramilitaries for organising the protest.

"I had prior warning that a protest was to take place in Bushmills while I was to open the new changing rooms at Dundarave in the village," he said.

"Police informed me that they had met with UDA representatives in the area who indicated that they would stop the event.

"I remain committed to representing all the people of Moyle including Bushmills and refuse to bow to the bully boy tactics of the UDA and their sidekicks."

He added he would officially open the facility "in the very near future".

The planned demonstration followed comments by the borough's first citizen earlier this summer in which he described the annual Twelfth of July parades as an "unsavoury event".

Police said around 80 people gathered outside the centre shortly after 5pm yesterday.

One of the village's well-known eating spots, The Bushmills Inn, pulled out of hosting a civic event planned to follow the official unveiling by the independent councillor.

One local community worker, Derwyn Brewster, who was at the scene last night, said he wanted "to see a unionist councillor open the unit as soon as possible".

Moyle chairman Padraig McShane is no stranger to controversy. As well as lambasting the Twelfth, he upset unionists recently after proposing to twin Moyle with war-torn Gaza.

On Monday night the former Sinn Fein man suspended a council meeting and walked out after unionist members raised concerns about the offer, which they claim was made without full council approval.

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