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Anger over council funds for events at bonfires but lack of cash for Easter Rising 1916 commemorations

By Jonny Bell

A Northern Ireland council is to use a procedure which allows decisions to be reviewed over its funding for events at Loyalist bonfires and Somme commemorations while nothing has been provided for Easter Rising events.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has approved funding for family events at Eleventh Night bonfires, The Irish News reported on Monday.

The unionist-dominated authority has also approved £50,000 of funding to be set aside for the Somme centenary, while nothing has been provided for the Easter Rising 100 year commemorations.

A proposal to provide £10,000 for Rising events was defeated by both Sinn Fein and the DUP.

Sinn Fein has said £40,000 should be made available.

The council has said three 'call-in' requests have been made relating to the funding - or lack of - for the Somme, bonfire and Easter Rising events and is seeking legal opinion.

Councillor Anne Marie Logue told the Irish News, the decision not to provide funding would "disproportionately affect those people from a nationalist background who live within the borough and have a legitimate expectation that the council will deliver services in an equal and unbiased way".

DUP councillor Phillip Brett told the Belfast Telegraph, there could be no comparison between the events of the Somme and the Easter Rising.

He said: "Sinn Fein and the SDLP did not vote against funding for the Somme or the Eleventh night bonfire events.

"Whilst there would be people from the area of Newtownabbey and Antrim who fought and died at the Somme  that would not be the case to the events in Dublin 100 years ago and we believe these call-ins will have no merit.

"Sinn Fein also voted against £10,000 for Rising events - they wanted £40,000 or £50,000.

"There has to be balance and perspective.

"We can't fund Somme events to the same degree as the Easter Rising in our view they are not the same and we voted against.

"It was also pointed out that the Irish government has made money available for groups to hold events."

While the council supported environmental sanctions on bonfires, such as burning of tyres, a proposal to withhold funding for offensive displays such as burning of flags and effigies was defeated.

Councillor Brett said this was because the burning of flags and other material was a matter to be investigated by the police.

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