Magherafelt council to invite residents to discuss gateway features

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THE DUP leader on Magherafelt District Council, Paul McLean has accused Sinn Fein of “hypocrisy” in their stance against the inclusion of a World War I soldier in a Magherafelt housing estate gateway feature.

Two gateway features proposed for entrances to Beechland and Leckagh housing estates in Magherafelt had been adjourned from a previous council meeting to allow residents to reconsider ‘symbols’ depicted on the features.

Members heard at their meeting on Tuesday night that the WWI soldier was to acknowledge the Centenary of the Great War.

Council officials met representatives from the Neighbourhood Groups to listen to their alternative suggestions.

Policy and Development Officer Ann-Marie Campbell said residents were prepared to remove the gun from the soldier on the draft proposal, and asked to meet the council to discuss their proposals.

Sinn Fein Councillor Brian McGuigan pointed out that there was still a “militaristic symbol” involved in the feature which they needed to get away from as it would not be a welcoming sight going into any estate.

Party colleague Councillor Peter Bateson stressed that the funding for the gateway features came from Peace III funding and its remit was that the features should reflect local culture not a militaristic symbol. He said people had to understand that there was no agreed shared past.

But Councillor McLean accused Sinn Fein of operating double standards.

Referring to a mother’s anger over a GAA club presenting medals featuring an IRA man to her son, he claimed Sinn Fein would give their full support to the GAA for this but would object to a World War One soldier appearing on a gateway feature.

Councillor McLean accepted that not all residents on the Beechland estate wanted a WWI soldier included on the feature, but he said to hear Sinn Fein councillors “spoofing about it” was enough to make him “boak.”

Sinn Fein group leader Councillor Sean McPeake hit out at Councillor McLean for introducing “some fallacy about the GAA and medals” into the debate.

He said he would defend the good work the GAA did in the community.

DUP Councillor Anne Forde pointed out that the council had paid for trips for residents from Beechland and Leckagh to go to the Somme and the presence of the WWI soldier was what they learned about their past from the trip.

On the proposal of Councillor McGuigan, seconded by Councillor Patricia Smith, it was agreed that the council would meet with representatives from Beechland and Leckagh estates.