Plan to purge town of Protestant symbolism

SINN Fein plans to purge a town of symbols of Protestant and British culture have been exposed in the minutes of a damning council document.

Republican councillors in Limavady have drawn up a lengthy "petty sectarian wish list" of items they intend to have removed from inside and outside the local council offices in order to create a "neutral environment

ASSAULT

Alderman George Robinson of the DUP said: "This is nothing more than a full-frontal assault on the unionist people, not only of Limavady but of Northern Ireland."

The minutes of a special council committee – which includes SDLP members but which unionists refused to sit on – reveal that councillors did an "audit" of the council buildings last November.

And one by one they decided which items offended them and had to go.

So thorough was their trawl that the document reveals they had to do an internet search before they could establish if they were offended by a statue at the council doors.

After some lengthy debate, they decided they were. And so they want the monument to local man William Massey Ferguson, who left the town in the late 1800s and became Prime Minister of New Zealand, pulled down.

The committee recommendations are due before a full council meeting next Tuesday, at which unionists expect to be out-voted (nine-to-six) by a nationalist majority.

DISGUST

Last night, DUP Alderman and former Mayor of Limavady George Robinson said he was "shocked and disgusted" by what was in the council minutes.

He said he was deeply concerned at what sort of message this would send out to the mainly unionist people of the town of Limavady.

"Unionists knew what this was about and did not sit on the committee, knowing we would be out-voted on any suggestions.

"But picking out the statue of Massey Ferguson beggars belief. It is a tribute to one of the town's most famous and successful sons," said Mr Robinson

"It has been there 10 or 12 years and is causing offence to no one. They are planning to rip down a monument, a tourist attraction, and a tribute to a local man.

"According to Sinn Fein he was first and foremost an Orangeman and he made anti-Catholic speeches."

But Mr Robinson was just as shocked at how petty and "narrow-minded" the inventory of the targeted items was.

As well as the statue the list includes:

* three pictures in a hallway, at least one of which was a gift from a regiment at Ballykelly Army base following a visit to the council;

* a Royal British Legion certificate;

* artwork presented to council by the 8th Infantry Brigade;

* a Charles and Diana mug;

* a little dragon from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards;

* a Royal Engineers paper weight;

* and a 22nd Regiment Cheshire plate.

He said: "As an MLA I sit up at Stormont and in fairness to Sinn Fein there have been times where they have looked at things and seen the bigger picture and not taken this attitude.

"This, though, is a major step backwards for community relations in the Limavady area."

DUP MP for the area Gregory Campbell added his disgust. He said: “It seems absolutely preposterous that anybody could consider the statue offensive, for starters. We should be celebrating history and not trying to re-write it.”

While Limavady town is mainly unionist, the council area, including Dungiven, has a nationalist majority.

Sinn Fein former Limavady mayor Anne Brolly said last night that the matter was being dealt with by the Equality Commission and that the sub-committee had been set up to look at the issues.

It was "unfortunately unionists wouldn't get involved" in a process to make the council building more "user friendly and neutral," she said.

"Rather than reflect one section of the community, we want it to be more neutral, just as we wanted a no flags policy when I was mayor.

“We don't want people to feel threatened. It is important in the new climate that we are living in that we have a neutral environment in a place like a public building."