Crumlin residents being 'discriminated against' after council axes Christmas tree
Residents of a Co Antrim town have said they have been discriminated against after a council decided not to provide funding for a Christmas tree.
Antrim and Newtownabbey Council is funding Christmas trees and lights for Antrim, Glengormley, Randalstown and Ballyclare but Crumlin was left out because it did not gain the necessary level of support.
A concerned parent from Crumlin told the Belfast Telegraph: "The ratepayers of Crumlin town are absolutely horrified to find out recently in September 2018, that we have completely been cast aside by our 'super council' Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council with regards to Christmas tree, lighting and insurance funding.
"The council has systematically cut Crumlin out of the equation altogether, for no good reason. We are left with no other conclusion, than, we have been completely discriminated against."
Campaigners in the town have lobbied the council and school pupils have sent artwork to councillors in a bid to overturn the decision.
Alliance councillor Tom Campbell, speaking on the Frank Mitchell Show on U105, said: "What we have is a venomous campaign stirred up by Sinn Fein. What they have done is take a couple of lies and twisted them in to try and represent the truth. They are claiming they are not getting a Christmas tree and this amounts to discrimination.
"The council is getting letters from individuals demanding copies of our equality policy and they have also got school children to unwittingly prepare artwork for councillors, sent round to councillors, with an anonymous letter. The anonymous letter tells blatant lies and one of the blatant lies is that the town is being denied Christmas lights."
Mr Campbell said the town was entitled to apply for a grant for Christmas lights and had not done so. He said the council had encouraged community groups to find alternative sources of funding because of council budget constraints.
He said community groups in the town had sourced £2,000 from Belfast International Airport towards Christmas activities, which Mr Campbell says includes provision for a Christmas tree.
Sinn Fein councillor Anne Marie Logue, speaking on U105, disputed the claim that the Crumlin community had secured funding for a Christmas tree from Belfast International Airport.
"Crumlin Festival Group is getting £2,000, apparently for a fun day, a festival," she said. "Nothing to do with the Christmas tree or the Christmas lights that are usually funded by council. This is totally separate."
The Sinn Fein councillor also denied that the party was "manipulating" school children by getting them to make artwork and send it to councillors.
"If children want to get involved, if parents want to get involved, if schools want to get involved, then that is good," she said.
"To actually give children the opportunity to express their feelings through art is good. It has nothing to do with Sinn Fein. This conspiracy theory that Alderman Campbell is very worrying indeed."
An Alliance spokesman said the party had twice brought motions proposing Crumlin be included as one of the towns to receive funding around Christmas provisions.
It is understood Belfast International Airport gave £2,000 to Crumlin Residents' Association towards Christmas festivities but the airport did not state how the money was to be spent.
In a statement, Antrim and Newtownabey Borough Council said because of a lack of funding it was agreed that Christmas trees, festive lighting and switch on event locations would be reduced from 22 to four.
The council offered, free of charge, existing Christmas tree lights and also made a budget of £18,000 available for community groups who wished to secure their own trees. To date 11 groups have applied and been approved a total of £8,445.75 towards their Christmas events.
The council spokesperson said it received no request for Christmas lights from Crumlin to date.
The spokesperson added: "Groups in Doagh, Straid, Parkgate, Templepatrick and Toome have also availed of the offer of Christmas lights. No request for Christmas lights has been received to date from Crumlin. In addition to the support from the Council, Belfast International Airport is also providing funding of £2,000 towards the costs of Crumlin’s Christmas programme."
Belfast Telegraph Digital