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.