A pagan priest has called for councillors to keep “religious politics” out of the council chambers, after a TUV member objected to a plaque commemorating a witchcraft trial.
The row erupted after Larne Borough Council proposed to mark the place where eight Islandmagee women were convicted of witchcraft in 1711, in what is believed to have been the last of the witch trials in Ireland.
Minutes taken at last month’s meeting show that Councillor Jack McKee said the proposal as “anti-God”. They record that “he could not tell whether or not the women were rightly or wrongly convicted as he didn’t have the facts and he was not going to support devil worship”.
Patrick Carberry, who describes himself as a traditional Celtic pagan priest, said pagans were already being unfairly demonised.
“I believe everyone should have their own faith and respect the faith of others, and I will stand up in front of anyone and explain my faith.
“I respect Christianity, my wife is a Christian, she believes in her beliefs and I believe in my beliefs, and that is the way things should be, but we [pagans] are being persecuted.”
Mr Carberry said the local councils were already discriminating against pagans by refusing to recognise pagan weddings, which the Celtic priest says are in great demand.
“We have to do [pagan] marriages, and then when the marriage is done then the couple has to reapply to the council to make it legal.
“There is quite a large community of pagans in Northern Ireland but they don’t speak out because the simple fact if they would lose their jobs, lose friends. We don’t preach harm to anybody, but people seem to think we do because they are ignorant to the fact of what we do. As far as they are concerned we are evil,” he added.
The council motion, which was carried, said it agrees “that council put some planting and a small plaque in place in the vicinity of The Gobbins Visitors Centre”
Martina Devlin, whose book on the 300-year-old tale The House Where It Happened is to be turned into a film, said: “The eight women were convicted of witchcraft on nothing that we’d recognise as evidence today: it was all hearsay and one person’s uncorroborated word against theirs.”