Unionists block move to put back Easter Rising memorial in Carnlough
A row has broken out after unionists voted down an equality body's proposal for dialogue on replacing an Easter Rising memorial in a coastal village.
The stone structure in Carnlough, Co Antrim, was erected in 2016 on council land without permission.
It was removed in the dead of night by officials from Mid and East Antrim Council.
But it can now be revealed that a cross-party equality working group has recommended further discussions around submitting a revised proposal.
It follows a consultation exercise involving all 563 residents.
It is understood 177 responded, and that around 75% of these responses expressed support for some sort of replacement memorial to be erected. The response formed the basis for the equality working group's recommendations.
Those proposals were put to a full meeting of the council last night.
However, a DUP proposal not to proceed was overwhelmingly backed by 26 votes to four, with three abstentions.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said: "Elected members this evening decided by majority vote not to proceed any further with the application for the proposed erection of a memorial in Carnlough to commemorate the Easter Rising.
"This decision was made in line with the policy framework."
There were angry exchanges in the council chamber as the equality body's recommendations were debated and ultimately voted down.
The 3ft stone was erected at Hurry Head in Carnlough in March 2016 to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland.
The structure included memorial pictures of the Rising protagonists and was inscribed with the dates 1916 and 2016.
It overlooked Carnlough Harbour and had a flagpole with a tricolour.
However, it later emerged the structure had been put in place without planning permission.
Unionists in the area were angered by the memorial, branding it provocative.
In June 2016 the memorial was removed in the middle of the night by contractors under police guard.
Last December, the council launched a consultation exercise involving households in the village on whether the structure should return.
The consultation exercise is understood to have cost at least £1,000, while the removal of the memorial itself cost a further £750. The bills were disclosed after Freedom of Information requests by the Irish News.
The consultation exercise had been seen as an attempt to find a resolution. However, last night's vote has scuppered the chances of a compromise in the immediate future.
Yesterday a spokesman for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: "An application to erect a memorial in Carnlough was received by council in June 2016, to be considered under the Commemorations and Memorials Framework.
"As per council procedure, council's cross-party equality working group commissioned a process of consultation with the local community to seek their views, and in parallel obtained further information from the applicant.
"Working with an independent expert on equality, a range of opportunities to engage in the consultation were made available, beginning in December 2016.
"All comments and information gathered through the consultation process have been collated and presented to the equality working group by the independent expert."