According to several readers living in Portadown, yesterday’s story in the Times about the Mosque at Bleary had been a controversy before Christmas, but was beginning to settle when the story broke nationally yesterday. The local Portadown Times (not to be confused with the satirical Portadown News) reported:
“Alderman Fred Crowe (UUP) said he was called in by residents ‘who are objecting in the strongest terms possible’ adding ‘despite the fact that glaring deficiencies have come to light, planners are refusing to change their minds – hence the office meeting which follows an earlier site meeting’. The alderman pointed out that the fears were over roads and drainage, claiming ‘its being built on a virtual swamp, where septic tank discharges meet’.”
According to the paper the claims of racism have largely emanated from Nationalist members of Craigavon Borough Council:
“Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd challenged the council ‘to step back and let these people have their freedom of worship’. This claim has been greeted with anger by councilors like Robert Smith (DUP) who accused Sinn Fein of hypocrisy, saying that ‘the armed wing of Sinn Fein had denied people their basic right to life’.
“For their part, the Muslims insist that the development isn’t ‘an Eastern-type mosque with domes, but a community centre where we wish to practice our culture and religion”. Leader Shameen Qureshi said, ‘at the moment we use Moylinn centre, and there has never been complaints or problems’.”