Sinn Fein and unionists clash over Mid and East Antrim Council RUC tribute plan

A proposal for a window dedicated to the RUC to be installed at The Braid in Ballymena prompted an outburst from Sinn Fein at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on Monday evening.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 10:49 am
The Braid, Ballymena
The Braid, Ballymena

Ballymena DUP Alderman Audrey Wales MBE proposed that a commemorative window be dedicated to the RUC in the council’s main civic building in tribute to the police force,  which was superseded by the PSNI in 2001.

She indicated that the proposal had been first made during the legacy Ballymena Borough Council.

However, Bannside Sinn Fein Councillor Ian Friary said that he did not think the centenary of the RUC should be celebrated.

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“The RUC, their role, their history, their participation in the conflict should not be commemorated or celebrated. It was a biased, partisan state force that colluded in the murder of citizens here and it had to be disbanded,” Cllr Friary alleged.

He added: “The council should not be marking its formation.”

Bannside TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston stated: “Disgraceful comments from a Bannside representative. Happy to second Ald Wales’s proposal. A very fitting tribute it would be.”

Ballymena DUP Ald John Carson commented: “I am absolutely disgusted by those comments. I come from a family of which five members served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary with pride. One of those five was murdered in the city of Londonderry.

“I am annoyed. But for my late father and late uncles I will not take that sort of talk from anyone. I will refer those comments to the Ombudsman and see what he has to say about it.

“I was one of the ones behind the proposal at Ballymena Council that there would be a memorial window put in Ballymena Town Hall for the RUC George Cross.”

Carrickfergus Castle DUP Ald Billy Ashe MBE commented: “I would like to add to that proposition that we erect a plaque in our memorial garden in memory of the RUC who in my opinion done a fine job.”

Party colleague Cllr Gregg McKeen said: “If we are doing a window here and a memorial stone in Carrick Memorial Garden, it would be appropriate to do something similar in Larne Memorial Garden to the memory of the RUC that we do have a lasting tribute for the service of those given by the Royal Ulster Constabulary throughout the years in each of our main towns.”

Cllr Gaston continued: “I look forward to the dedication as well in a couple of weeks in Ballymena Memorial Gardens.”

An RUC George Cross Memorial is due to be unveiled and dedicated at Ballymena Memorial Park by Ballymena RUC George Cross Association on May 22.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr William McCaughey, is to host a commemorative event on June 1.

Meanwhile, the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross (RUC GC) Foundation is to mark a centenary of policing in Northern Ireland with a series of events including a church service in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, to highlight the “commitment, sacrifice and distinguished service of officers”.

Chair of the RUC GC Foundation, Stephen White OBE, said the anniversary will see the emphasis placed on “remembrance and acts of courage and heroism since the formation of the RUC in June 1922”.

Mr White, who served in the RUC GC and the PSNI before retiring as an Assistant Chief Constable, said since June 1922 when the RUC came into being until the force was incorporated into the PSNI, a total of 462 lost their lives in the line of duty or in service.

They included seven officers killed in German air raids on Belfast during the Second World War, but the bulk of casualties, 302 men and women, were murdered in terrorist attacks during ‘the Troubles’. Two PSNI officers have been murdered and others left with life-changing injuries as a result of terrorist acts.

Mr White said: “The Troubles easily eclipsed everything that had gone before but for its scale of savagery and brutality. Of the 462 officers who died in service, 302 were murdered between 1969 and 1998. Over 8,000 were injured, more than 300 severely disabled.”

He noted that 1,200 police families were forced to flee their home because of threats from terrorists.

“Countless thousands of lives were saved by officers who took enormous risks to frustrate, undermine and counter dedicated terrorist organisations from both sides of the religious and political divide,” he continued

“In our centenary year, we will particularly mark the sacrifices and honour the achievements of the RUC GC. A range of events will reflect and honour those who cannot be with us and reach out to families still suffering acute pain and say ‘we will always be by your side’.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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