Shiels pens open letter to electorate

OUTGOING Vice-chairman of Magherafelt District Council Councillor George Shiels has taken the unusual step of writing an open letter to the Magherafelt Electorate following an article in last week’s Mid-Ulster Mail by Sinn Fein Group Leader Councillor Sean McPeake.

Dear elector,

I am taking the unusual step of writing to you to attempt to put the record straight following a statement by Sinn Fein Group Leader Sean McPeake in the Mid-Ulster Mail last week when he misrepresented comments I made in ‘The Mid’ the previous week.

Let’s clear one red herring out of the way at the outset. I am not against the Irish Language neither are the vast majority of the Unionist population within the district. After all it was a group of Presbyterian clergy who helped rescue the language from extinction. I have helped organise Storytelling Events in the district when Irish speaking storytellers were included. What Unionists, including myself, are against is the connection between Sinn Fein and the IRA and the atrocities committed by that organisation, and Sinn Fein’s promotion of the Irish Language. In effect SF has hijacked the Irish Language and Traditional music and quite cleverly made them their own, knowing full well that this reality makes them a no-no for Unionists. An Irish Language practitioner has said to me ‘I wish Sinn Fein would butt out, they’re doing the language irreparable harm.’

Let’s look at Sinn Fein’s declared aim to establish an Irish medium school on the previous Maghera High School site. Could this initiative not be accommodated on St Patricks campus. I believe their pupil numbers are contracting.

The site at Largantogher is vast, why would the Irish Medium school need all of it. What happened Sinn Feins avowed support for a Shared Space. The site is large enough for all.

There is a great need for a training facility within the Magherafelt District which could be a centre of excellence to kick-start the Manufacturing sector – there is no better site, situated as it is alongside the A6 which takes the traffic from Belfast to Londonderry and vice- versa.

I have taken advice on this matter from economists and business leaders and they tell me such an initiative is overdue and that this is an opportune time to develop such a centre of excellence.

Councillor McPeake on the other hand uses clichés and speaks in generalities, but I believe the plan is to asset strip the site, to place a school in the corner and sell the rest making a financial killing at Magherafelt ratepayers expense, ratepayers who paid for the construction of the school in the early sixties.”

Yours sincerely,

George Shiels