Loyalists held a protest in Bushmills on Saturday rather than attend the opening of an art project on which they had been working for 18 months – because it was being unveiled by a member of Sinn Fein.
But in spite of the protest the Peace Three art project of a cow was opened in the Millennium Park by Moyle District Council chairman, Sinn Fein councillor Cara McShane and DUP vice chair of Moyle council Robert McIlroy.
Last night chairman of Bushmills Residents and Environmental Forum, Derwyn Brewster, said they had asked councillor McShane “that if she was coming along, not to be speaking in Irish and not to take the limelight and to be low-key”.
He added: “So on Friday the community group decided they wouldn’t be attending the unveiling. This is something we created over an 18-month period with hundreds of young people. The protest was held at very short notice but there were around 80 people there.
“There was a lot of anger. And because of everything that is going on in the country at the minute with Sinn Fein attacking Orange culture and the Maze, we decided we would pull out of the event and hold a small protest.
“But the PSNI actually stopped some of the protestors from going over to the unveiling, so the protest was held just across the River Bush.”
Mr Brewster said it had annoyed the community. “ She was there with three party colleagues, so it was a show of strength from Sinn Fein. I am not sure if she spoke in Irish or not because we were not allowed near it.”
In a statement posted on the Moyle Sinn Fein website, councillor Mc Shane said that on Thursday she met with Bushmills residents where “neither representative objected to me attending the event as chairperson of Moyle District Council”.
Councillor Mc Shane said during the 18-month project “at no stage were any objections made to working in partnership with nationalists and republicans, until now. Are BREF happy to work with nationalists and republicans behind closed doors but not in public?”
She added: “In objecting to my attendance at the event BREF have abandoned the ethos of the community cohesion project, however I have been encouraged by the messages of support which I have received from other community leaders in Bushmills. Clearly the actions of BREF are unrepresentative of the feelings of the wider community in the village.”