Taking down memorial to Easter Rising is hypocritical, says SDLP man
An SDLP councillor has accused Mid and East Antrim Borough Council of hypocrisy after it removed an "illegal" monument marking the 1916 Easter Rising.
The contentious three-foot stone memorial was placed on council-owned property in Carnlough earlier this year.
Images of the 1916 Proclamation signatories were included on the memorial, located at Hurry Head in the seaside village.
Unionists branded the item illegal and called for its removal. But SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan criticised the local authority after it was taken away "in the dead of the night".
He also branded the action "hasty" and said it would not be tolerated by nationalists.
"I deplore this action by the council," Mr O'Loan added. "I do not support the erection of any memorial on public property without authorisation.
"However, when such a thing happens, the situation requires the utmost sensitivity and patience. The council action was hasty. The public sees a plethora of huge paramilitary murals in very prominent locations across Mid and East Antrim. All sorts of loyalist flags hang in their hundreds with impunity.
"The hypocrisy of the situation is obvious, and it makes the nationalist community very angry.
"Acting in the dead of the night shows that the council knew very well the resentment there would be towards its action, even from those who had nothing to do with the memorial.
"This is the kind of politics that characterised the old Stormont, and it will not be tolerated by the nationalist people."
The council said plans to remove the memorial had been in the pipeline and that a contractor had been employed to take it away on Thursday.
TUV councillor Timothy Gaston, who had spoken against the monument, welcomed the move.
"It doesn't surprise me it's gone," he said. "The TUV has long called for its removal since it was illegally erected prior to Easter.
"It's been a blight on the community and has done nothing but heighten tensions in the Carnlough area.
How can councillor O'Loan criticise the council for removing an illegal memorial? We have a process in place, and for any councillor to feel that it is right to bypass that for any sort of memorial is completely out of order.
"There are paramilitary flags, but none of them are on council property."
A council spokeswoman said: "Following the unauthorised erection of a memorial on council-owned land in Carnlough, council directed that arrangements were to be made for its removal.
"Mid and East Antrim Borough Council can confirm that the memorial was removed this morning."
The news came as a Union flag was erected outside a Catholic church previously targeted by loyalists.
It was put up outside Our Lady and St John the Evangelist Church in Dervock, near Ballymoney.