The euphoria combined with great expectations of a new brighter future are dead. Murdered by 100 days of unadulterated bigotry and old fashioned supremacy. For the people of the former District of Moyle, a council set up in 1972 to cater for that wild untamed fenian element that lives on the North Antrim Coast stretching largely from the village of Waterfoot through Cushendall, Cushendun, Carey, Armoy Glen and down into Ballycastle, it is the new and invigorated recalibration of the Orange State.
Moyle’s birth and very existence was down to the fact that Coleraine, Ballymena, Larne and in particular, Ballymoney’s ‘old school’ Unionist dominated representatives refused to countenance taking such a large base of the Nationalist population. It’s political makeup could have tipped the balance of Unionist preeminence in each of the respective old legacy Council areas.
So Moyle, with the smallest population of 17,000, was little over half the size of the second smallest, Ballymoney with 32,000 and one of the largest geographical areas, battled its way from 1972 to March 2015 to provide for its ratepayers. With a low population base and no major industries it survived on a shoestring budget. It was fortunate in its geographical makeup with the Giant’s Causeway, the rope bridge, the Glens and of course Rathlin. It battled hard to provide for all.
Now here’s the rub;
Moyle relied heavily on funding opportunities and voluntary organisations to make the ratepayers money go further. Officers became experts in obtaining funding of 80% 90% and up to 100% to finance projects that were simply out of their budget. Quay Road playing fields & synthetic turf, Ballycastle, Glenariff Forest Park, Millennium Park Bushmills, new sand based soccer pitch Dundarave, Changing facilities Dundarave, the Cottage Wood in Cushendall etc etc etc. Landscape schemes were applied for and funded at 100% right along the coast etc. The GAA in the area removed a massive burden from ratepayers, providing their own facilities, growing developing and working in close proximity with the Council to promote health and wellbeing.
Before Moyle Council ended, an Equality Impact Assessment concluded that on the basis of Services delivered in the community and sporting sectors, the ‘green Bantustan’ up beside Scotland had over delivered in the Causeway Ward (Unionist), and under delivered in Ballycastle while the Glens ward (the greenest of them all) needed serious investment and had been neglected. The message in these stats was that Republicans in Moyle had went out of their way to provide leadership and support the Unionist minority in the area.
No flags, emblems and a service delivery mechanism that supported everyone. It allowed everyone to adopt and foster their own identities, to feel equal. Those decisions manifested into strong community relations in the Glens and Ballycastle. It’s no accident that sectarianism is almost unheard of. There is no proliferation of flags and public bodies like schools, churches and voluntary groups work together without recourse to the question of one’s religion.
In contrast, Ballymoney Council chose to fly its Union Flag 365 days of the year. The community jumped on board following the lead. There is hardly a lamppost in the Town and most of the surrounding villages that flags don’t adorn. It’s only serious rival in flag proliferation, Coleraine, another legacy council. The two areas are bywords for sectarianism. A fundamental religious leadership applying the lowest common denominator to a population, drawn largely as those same political leadership might see it, from a lower caste.
The problem with the promotion of supremacy and the ideology that sees a young turk with a flute have the ability throw his arms apart and declare, ‘We are the People’ is its grotesque consequences. It’s no accident that the placing of one identity above others allows for the dehumanising of an entire people. The ideology allows those same people to burn 3 children in their beds in Ballymoney. It allows for the kicking to death of a father in Coleraine. It also generates enough hate for a ninteen year old to blow himself up in the pursuit of doing likewise to his catholic neighbour.
It does not end there. Those who make decisions to the detriment of the community over flags are the same people who are entrusted to make decisions for the benefit of the entire community on matters of business, finance, community development, infrastructure and wellbeing.
We have a stark choice as a community. We collectively face down the supremacist ideology espoused by those granted enough power by Stormont to create their own little Orange State on the North Antrim Coast. We also work together to maintain the relations carefully fostered over generations or we pass the area off into some horrible abyss.
A councillor in Ballycastle has said a club that was vandalised with sectarian graffiti will continue to go from strength to strength as he emphasised the positive aspect of being a Gael.
“A Tourism and Leisure facility in Ballycastle is now inevitable and construction should begin in the 2016/17 financial year”.
“That Council prepares a robust case for the development of the Tourism, Leisure Facility for the Moyle Area to be put forward to the Transition Committee for consideration”.
“The decision by Moyle to support my request to update the feasibility study this year is an important step. Design and planning will follow in the 2015/16 financial year with building commencing the year after.“Concerns have been raised about cost which has been used to block the project in the past. The obstacle has been overcome and we can build and maintain the Tourism/Leisure centre for an additional 1% on the rates of the new super council. Given that our rates in Moyle could drop by as much as 15%, we could not only have this facility but a substantially reduced rates bill.“We must remember this type of facility is taken for granted in every other Council area in the North”.
“The case of need alongside the feasibility study has already been established. It is now a statutory requirement for the super council. The only real reason why it could refuse to develop a centre is on the grounds of affordability. Our work over the last number of years has proved the centre is affordable. Should a future super council refuse to develop it they will inevitably find themselves answerable to a judicial review. The Tourism/Leisure facility will therefore be developed”.
“Failure is an orphan while success will have many fathers. The heavy lifting on this project has been completed by Moyle District Council over the last number of years. Given the project is on a successful trajectory, others will undoubtedly wish to attach themselves to that success. I welcome it eventually reached Stormont but surrounding that debate is a few unpalatable facts.“The project is seven years old yet only when success is presenting itself do MLA’s bring it to the floor. It seems no local MLA was aware of the facts of the Strategic Leisure research in addition to the tourism section of the proposals. Undoubtedly the most confusing aspect of the question about Leisure provision in Moyle was that it was asked of the DOE Minister. One would have thought it would have been more appropriate to ask the Minister responsible for Leisure.”
“We look forward to welcoming Wexford to Ballycastle. It’s a great occasion for local Gaels in North Antrim to play host to some of the illustrious names in the hurling world. The ‘yellow bellies’ of Wexford will provide keen opposition on Sunday before the ‘Rebels’ of Cork arrive next month.
“While the Club have prepared well to play host, the Council have sought to play their part also. I received excellent input from Kerrie, our tourist officer, when I asked her to promote the game. Not only is it on the Council website but the Causeway Coast & Glens Tourism Partnership, NITB and Bord Failte Ireland have advertised and marketed the events prominently. It is hoped the local economy will receive a bounce from the games”.
“Hurling has seen a dramatic improvement in Antrim over the last few years. Shamrocks in Loughgiel have set the standard in recent competitions and Antrim’s under 21’s beat Sunday’s opposition to progress to the Inter-county All-Ireland at that level last season. Where once it would have been unthinkable for Antrim to beat Wexford, Sunday could serve up a cracker with the outcome unpredictable.”
Moyle District Council will invest £25,000 on the Quay Road Sports Complex multi use surface. The investment comes following severe winter damage due to the weather. The damage is preventing surface water from draining off and has forced the facility’s closure several times this winter.
Independent Councillor Padraig Mc Shane who requested the work be carried out said;
“The artificial surface is by far the most utilised playing surface under the control of Moyle District Council. It has allowed the growth and development of hockey in the town alongside Gaelic Games. The nature of a surface enables a range of sports to be played on it. This allows for increased use of the area due to it’s diverse nature and the area is playable all year round.
“Over a dozen camogie teams use the facility on a Sunday morning to play a winter competition. In the past a competition at this time of year would have been beyond the ambition of most managers. Soccer and athletics ensure the complex is in constant demand day and night”.
A major shake up of one of the most controversial community funding
pots in Moyle will see GAA Clubs in the District having to ‘cool their heels’
and wait to see if they are to gain any financial support for infrastructure
projects this year. The Community Infrastructure Fund is used by community and
voluntary organisations to promote and enhance facilities that serve the
residents of Moyle.
In a surprise move Councillors proposed that any groups that received monies from the Community
Infrastructure Fund in the past should be considered – only after new
applicants received their awards. The move will see all six GAA Clubs in Moyle
relegated to the back of the queue for awards this year because of previous
successful applications. Other groups also relegated include the Armoy
Motorcycle Road Racing Club, the Corrymeela Community, Greenlight Gateway and
the Glens Youth Club.
The Fund, first proposed in 2008, has proved controversial with Unionists labelling the
programme, ‘The GAA fund’. No group in the Causeway Ward has received financial
support from the programme. Councillor Mc Shane said, “Unfortunately the
Causeway Ward has yet to submit any applications, hence the explanation as to
why no funds have found their way there yet”.
Over one hundred thousand pounds made its way directly into
the six GAA Clubs in the District since Councillor Mc Shane’s proposal.
Councillor Padraig Mc Shane stated;
“I would implore my colleagues in this Council to think
carefully about what they are proposing. It is simply not feasible to make this
decision until we explore the quality of applications to be presented to
Council. To discriminate against those who have been successful in the past
seems illegal and immoral. Projects must be judged on merit.
A vote taken on the proposal witnessed the SDLP and Sinn
Fein unite with Unionists to force the changes through. Councillor Padraig Mc
Shane was joined by his Independent colleague, Randal Mc Donnell in opposing
Councillor Mc Shane said he was disappointed by the changes
but defended the track record of the funding in the past saying;
“It had proved the catalyst for some major projects in the
District. It also gave Council the opportunity to attempt to address the
historic legacy of little or no government support for the GAA in Moyle.
“In finishing I would encourage all groups, including those
who were successful in the past, to apply should they have a sound proposal.”
Cushendall have become the latest GAA Club to benefit from our infrastructure fund in Moyle. The fund, unique to the Council, was set up to leave a legacy in the wake of RPA and the dissolution of Moyle District Council in 2008. The Council will be part of the new Causeway Coast & Glens Super Council in 2015.
While Moyle had an outstanding history of under-funding in Gaelic Games, the opportunity to design and develop a programme that would help redress the inequality has paid dividends with all six Clubs in the District benefiting.
The latest is the Ruairi Og’s Cushendall GAC who received 20% of a £40,000 project to build a ball wall. Coaching staff recognise the benefits of these investments;
“Hurling Walls provide a safe, accessible environment for players to develop their skills and improve their technique. The benefits of having a Hurling Wall facility within a club or school are huge, and combined with appropriate drill sets can result in a dramatic improvement in players’ skill levels over a relatively short time period.”
Paudie Butler, National Hurling Co-ordinator.
A Councillor in Moyle reacted with bemusement to suggestions of a ‘Funding disparity’ between the Orange Order and the GAA in the District. The claim made by a Lodge member was laughed at by Councillor Mc Shane who said, “They must apply before we can refuse them”.
The reaction comes following revelations obtained under a freedom of information request that, over a three year period, Moyle District Council had contributed £378 to the Orange Order while over the same period the GAA obtained £62,000.
Much of the funds obtained by GAA Clubs in Moyle had been gained through the ‘Community Infrastructure Fund’. The fund was set up in 2008 after it was requested by Independent Councillor, Padraig Mc Shane.
Councillor Mc Shane stated;
“I proposed the Community Infrastructure Fund be set up following lengthy and protracted meetings with senior officials in both the GAA and Moyle District Council. It was plain to be seen at the time that Moyle had never sought to support the organisation in any meaningful manner relating to its size in the District. Over 120 teams play Gaelic Games in Moyle. The fund was not set up in isolation but rather, was for all voluntary and community groups to obtain funding.
On the allegations of funding disparity Councillor Padraig Mc Shane said;
“The first thing we must do is distinguish between a National sporting organisation and a supremacist, quasi-religious organisation. No comparison exists.
“Secondly, it would be important to ask ourselves why the Orange Order received no funding. Given they never applied, it will be relatively easy for the ratepayer in Moyle to understand why they drew a blank.
“The days of a wink and a nudge to obtain funds in a local Council are over and the Orange Order is now subject to the same rules as everyone else.”
The Councillor finished by saying;
“Of the £207,889 allocated since it was set up, the Community Infrastructure fund has enhanced the six GAA clubs in Moyle by over £100,000. The combined costs of the part-funded projects amount to almost £750,000 helping to redress a historic legacy of under funding in this sporting sector.
“The funding won’t be going away as my proposal enjoys the support of the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Councillor Blaney is also an avid supporter. Added to that, many Unionist Councillors also realise the benefits of the fund.”
A proposal for a footpath on the Glenshesk Road Armoy has met the Roads Service criteria to progress for a more detailed appraisal. The proposed footpath, almost five hundred meters in length, will run from Turreagh Terrace passing the Glen Rovers GAC grounds and finish at Saint Olcan’s Church.