UUP rejects ‘Roman Catholic’ cemetery Sunday speakers - The week in the Council

Nationalist councillors in Newtownabbey have accused unionists of doing nothing to halt the crisis at Carnmoney cemetery after two Ulster Unionists supported by nine councillors voted to reject the setting up of a Friends of Carnmoney Cemetery Group.
The desecration of graves, and the ongoing protest that has including car bombs at Cemetery Sunday services dominated the first monthly meeting of 2004
The controversy of Carnmoney where the headstone of UDA victim Daniel McColgan has been damaged twice along with other Catholic graves rumbled on.
Nationalist councillors have accused unionists of opposing the cemetery Sunday services held each year in memory of the dead.
Over recent summers loyalist attacks and protests have marred the annual blessing of the graves.
Men dressed in Rangers shirts have for three years walked and stood about the graves as bereaved relatives said prayers for their loved ones.
They pulled out speaker wires from the PA system used to convey prayers and complained to journalists that they were being disturbed from remembering their own dead.
Ulster Unionist councillor Ivan Hunter complained about the PA being intrusive to other graveyard users.
St Bernard’s church was gutted in a sectarian arson attack in June 2001 and last September parish priest Fr Dan Whyte received a loyalist death threat after sectarian graffiti was daubed on the doors of St Mary’s on the Hill.
A leisure committee meeting on January 13 had taken minutes from the cemeteries’ working group held last December.
The group was established last year to come to an agreement over the blockade of the Catholic worshippers.
The minutes of the cemeteries group reported that a “Mr Stanley Clements of Risk Management Consultants gave a presentation to members during which he advised that any security solution to the Carnmoney cemetery problem would involve substantial expenditure on a combination of floodlighting, CCTV, fencing and constant monitoring”.
But before proposals could be approved to the leisure committee Councillor Ivan Hunter and his Ulster Unionist colleague Dineen Walker objected.
An amendment put forward by the unionist duo reads: “That (a) the decision of Item 3 be rejected – the setting up of a Friends of Carnmoney Cemetery Group.
“(b) consideration of item 4 – Cemetery Rules and Regulation be deferred pending further consultation with the Roman Catholic community regarding the use of public address systems in the cemetery.”
The SDLP’s Noreen McClelland hit out at the lack of progress on the Carnmoney issue.
“Nothing has been done in regard to security. Three months have gone by arguing about cemetery rules and I’m wondering if this working group was put together as a smokescreen. Is there any use in continuing with the working group?” she said.
The DUP’s Nigel Hamilton asked mayor Girvan what Cllr McClelland was implying.
“Is this council being admonished as deliberately being ineffective? I would like that clarified,” he demanded.
The DUP first citizen replied that Cllr Hamilton could take it the council was being admonished.
Tommy McTeague of the SDLP blasted “the way this working group has been treated”.
“I would have immediately resigned from it. Committees are disappearing and nobody’s said a word.
“Some of you do not believe in dialogue, which is the most important thing in politics.
“ There is more dialogue with the paramilitaries. The cemetery issue is very important. The Catholic population is not just going to sit back.”
Sinn Féin’s Breige Meehan said she had been told a meeting was to be held in January and that a letter was to be sent to the family of Daniel McColgan regarding their loved one’s damaged grave.
“I asked a council officer about holding an extraordinary general meeting and was told that a letter was being sent out to Mrs McColgan and that a meeting would be in January.
“We are now at the end of January and it’s been put on the back burner,” said Cllr Meehan.

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon

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