A step back

Antrim Sinn Fein Councillors refused to support a motion praising the charitable work of the Royal British Legion in the borough.

Councillor Henry Cushinan defended the decision by arguing;

“Let’s not forget that there are two traditions in this borough. My tradition cannot support the Royal British Legion.”

This refusal to recognise that people of all backgrounds have served in the Armed Forces (and receive support from the RBL) contradicts the more open position of former Antrim Sinn Fein Councillor Martin Meehan. Despite Cushinan’s exclusivist definition of the nationalist tradition, the SDLP had no difficulty in supporting the motion.

  • slug

    What happened to SF much talked about (by themselves) “outreach to unionists”?

    Well done the SDLP..

    The SDLP – showing that they can practice tolerance not just preach it.

  • DerryTerry

    Look forward to the same council and the same councillors putting forward the same motion in November congratulating the charitable contribution of the National Graves Association.

  • Mick Fealty

    I get your point Terry, but wouldn’t that be an analogue to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, rather than the Legion.

  • fair_deal

    Is the equivalent of the NGA not Loyalist Prisoner’s Aid?

  • Mick Fealty

    Not so far as I can see FD. But I’m willing to plead less than comprehensive knowledge on the subject.

  • fair_deal

    The Irish equivalent of the RBL is the Organisation of Ex-service men and women

    http://www.oneconnect.ie/

  • carlosblancos

    hmm, another step towards a United Ireland by the brilliant strategists at Connolly House. Well done boys and girls.

  • elfinto

    Nice to know our local councillors have such important matters to discuss. No doubt the motion was designed to generate such a headline. SF did not vote against. They abstained. If ever there were a case of a storm in a tea cup, this is it.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Sinn Fein also abstained on the vote on the Good Friday Agreement…

  • Cataegus

    How pathetic, God all mighty why does so much in NI have to be political. This is a matter of common decency. What is wrong with commending anyone on their genuine charitable work?

    What does this act of abstaining actually tell us; for me it plants the following questions in my mind;

    1 What sort of up bringing and did they learn simple good manners and respect for the positive work of others?
    2 Is this simply irrational bigotry, surely not?
    3 Have they a total lack of consideration for the views of others?
    4 Do they have the willingness to step put and attempt to build common ground and understanding.
    5 Have they any interest in the section of the electorate that do not come from their ‘tribe’.

    I could go on, but why bother. The Unionists will, without doubt, return the compliment some day and the wheel will keep turning.

  • kensei

    “What is wrong with commending anyone on their genuine charitable work?”

    Because the same group provides support for old soldiers that did horrible things here, like shoot civilians dead in Derry. And the there’s is the fact that the British Army is in Iraq at the moment.

    So, yeah, I would have a problem supporting it though respect other’s opinion on the matter. Abstention is exactly what I would do.

  • Cataegus

    Kensei

    I find armies abhorrent and I don’t like Iraq either, or shooting civilians anywhere, but I tend to blame the politicians that send the army or the terrorist. If a young lad joins whatever outfit and has his life destroyed as a result he too is a victim.

    With regards Iraq I would like to see Blair and Bush brought to justice for their role in that crime, but that will never happen. So why vent our spleen on the youths who find themselves in a mess not of their own creation? However where I think you can hold soldiers accountable is their personal conduct on issues that they have personal control over.

  • lib2016

    If unionists can with justice blame republicans for ‘politicising the Irish language’ (and they surely can) then this is an attempt to ‘politicise the British Legion’. Nobody comes well out of it.

  • opendebate

    It is a shame that today, when the DUP take a positive and constructive step in making their case in Killarney, that we have to see a reluctance by certain SF reps to be generous in nature.

    Me thinks SF are riddled with contradictions…….former antrim cllr marty meehan happily embraced that part of his family heritage from WW1 by visting the Somme battlefield a few years back.

    As one from the county antrim catholic/nationalist/republican community I have
    recognised the charitable work of the legion. Yes we can all rehearse this and that about what it also represents…….but helping those that need help is what should count.

    Whether that is a old soldier who thankfully helped defeat hitler’s nazis in WW2 or a disabled former trooper who fought in our recent conflict in the north, our humanity should enable us to reach out and help.

    Surely SF have preached that all ‘former combatants’ should be accorded dignity and respect?

    If SF hope to get to the ‘new ireland’ they need to realise that generosity of word and deed, reconicilation, trust and confidence are all neccessary…….and will be measured by our unionist friends and neighbours.

    Sometimes you don’t have to wait for the ‘other side’ to move first. Go on, take the step Henry….

  • kensei

    “If SF hope to get to the ‘new ireland’ they need to realise that generosity of word and deed, reconicilation, trust and confidence are all neccessary…….and will be measured by our unionist friends and neighbours. ”

    My spider sense says that if you are a Republican I am a Free Preb. Anyway, A New Ireland means respecting others differences. I may respect some of the work of the organisation, but not the organisation itself. Absentionism is the best policy in this regard, rather than forcing people to do things they aree uncomfortable with. And that argument cuts both ways.

  • elfinto

    I would guess that the majority of ex-servicemen in Norn Iron did their service during the Troubles as part of the UDR/RIR and othere British regiments.

    Expecting SF to praise the Legion is a bit like expecting unionists to praise the Green Cross – a republican prisoners welfare group – i.e. it’s never going to happen.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Fair Deal

    I look forward to unionists supporting a motion praising the charitable work of the Green Cross…

    This is just one in a long line of similar motions proposed by DUP/UUP at local council level aimed at winding up nationalists and republicans.

    In neighbouring Lisburn Council, money has been given to the UDR Benevolent Fund, Prison Officers and the RIR given the freedom of the city and motions regularly attacking nationalists like Fr. Alex Reid and President Mary McAleese.

    Far from the DUP ‘batting back’ as Mick suggests in his Strabane Council post, unionists are masters of using their majority status on councils to pass exclusivist motions. That Fair Deal is seemingly complaining about this is quite hilarious-

    goose and gander….

  • Fidel O’toole

    Antrim Town believe it or not is about the 15th biggest place in Ireland, population wise. And yet it has but one main street, and a deserted shopping centre, large tracts of NIHE houses lying vacant, waiting to be wrecked by teenagers, a serious litter problem, an expanding rat population, and all property devalued due to old rags of union jacks and tricolours hanging from lamp posts, not to mention red white and blue, orange white and green kerbstones and lamp posts.At least now you do not have to wonder why anymore. Antrim council can argue about the religion of a jockey, so arguing about the legion should not be a surprise.

    Antrim also has a round tower, castle gardens and grounds, two castles, the biggest lough in Britain if not Europe (fresh water, the remains of the oldest practising court house in Ireland, battle sites, fishing, and lots more. If it was anywhere else in Ireland it would be thriving, with bus loads of tourists, as it is also the closest town to the airport.

    Rather than promote all of this, the council would rather argue about the religion of sportspeople, supporting the legion, or indeed anything as long as it does not require any thought or action.

    Heaven help us all if these people ever have to make any political decisions. They do not have a lot of time, as the town is dying, now just being a “home” to sleep in for commuters to Belfast.

  • Fidel O’toole

    Incidently, if people were foolish enough to fight for “King and country”, and this applies to any war mongering nation, well, King and Country should provide for them, instead of forcing them to rely on charity. Those who fought and served deserve better from their capitalist masters, as all wars are about money.

  • headmelter

    I would be interested to know what percentage of the legions charity work is dispensed to the nationalist/republican community, just out of curiosity.

  • Cataegus

    I despair.

    When someone does good, no matter who it is, they should be acknowledged for what they have done. When someone does something wrong, no matter who that is, they should be loudly criticised. It’s that simple.

    There is no point in worrying if they operate in one community and not the other as our society is divided, but if we are to move forward we simple have to take people on face value and accept that their perspective is quite different than our own. So let’s try and create a bit of space for each other.

    Findel

    “King and Country should provide for them, instead of forcing them to rely on charity. Those who fought and served deserve better from their capitalist masters, as all wars are about money.”

    No one in any country should have to depend on charity and often I wonder what possesses anyone to join an army or a terrorist organisation, but people do and quite a few of them without real appreciation of what they are getting themselves into. Blame the Politicians who send them as they know exactly what they are doing and soldiers always get shafted when they are of no further use.

    If we follow the logic of your argument we should allow pensioners to freeze if they don’t take out their own pension or refuse to operate on smokers or people who are over weight etc.

  • elfinto

    Recently a ‘convicted UVF terrorist’ was elected to a committee of the RBL in Co. Derry.

    Here’s what the veterans of Borneo and Malaya had to say on the subject (they weren’t too happy):

    http://www.nmbva.co.uk/News.htm

  • Fidel O’toole

    Cataegus? You’ve lost me, I was blaming the politicians, they are at the bidding of the money people. I attach no blame to working class persons who join the forces because there is nothing else.

    All I ask is that they eventually learn from history. From a “home fit for hero’s” after WW1, to people being killed in Iraq because they don’t have the right equipment, to people being refused pensions because “Les Malvinas” was not a war. Why do so many still go? That’s what we should be fighting against, namely ignorance, instead of arguing about stupid religion all the time.

  • Cataegus

    Fidel

    “That’s what we should be fighting against, namely ignorance, instead of arguing about stupid religion all the time.”

    I agree with that.

    Some time ago I was visiting a State Secondary School on open day, (11 plus tours). It struck me at the time that one of the differences in secondary and grammar schools was the careers advice. In Grammar school, professions, but in this secondary school the forces were to the fore. I was sufficiently annoyed to complain that there was an obvious over reliance on the armed forces and that I thought that the children were being bracketed. Don’t think the Headmaster was terribly impressed.

    Elfinto

    It is interesting that many in the RBL and the forces were themselves not happy with the appointment.

    I just don’t know the case, or person, and it would be folly to comment, but in life what you do rightly limits or increases your prospects in the future and really there are times when people should ask if their involvement would be more appropriate if less prominent.

    On one hand we can’t rule out the possibility that someone has changed and regrets what they did, or at least give them the opportunity to involve in positive activity. Concomitant with that should be an implicate understanding that they themselves should recognise the limitations imposed by their own past.

    On face value I feel the gentleman should not have put himself forward for any such position, but that is not a reason to criticise the organisation generally. From my experience many of them do involve themselves in credible activity and I am certainly not a great supporter of the military or Royalty for that matter and have personally been on the wrong end of extreme Loyalist activity.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I was at a meeting once at which Martin Meehan, ex-IRA leader and a former Sinn Fein councillor in Antrim, stood up and told a mixed audience about how the RBL had helped him to find the grave of a relative who died in the war.

    The first SF mayor of Belfast, ex-IRA man Alex Maskey, is also a big fan of the legion. I believe he consulted it when trying to come up with a way in which republicans could commemorate war dead in a more inclusive fashion – with a degree of success.

    The members of Antrim’s British Legion seemed like a fairly harmless bunch of old men to me when I worked in the town.

    The motion was about the Legion’s charitable work, rather than past military exploits. Cushinan’s argument about republicans remembering their dead in their own way seems scarcely relevant.

    Since RBL members are – by definition – retired soldiers, it makes Sinn Fein’s comments about ‘moving on’ and ‘leaving the past behind’ ring rather hollow in unionist ears.

    Course, it’s a two-way street, and unionist generosity of spirit in councils is often on the level of Cushinan.

    Perhaps the new ‘super councils’ will provide an incentive for some councillors to ‘reach out’ to ‘themmuns’, since their political survival may depend on it.

  • opendebate

    Well said Belfast Gonzo.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Recently a ‘convicted UVF terrorist’ was elected to a committee of the RBL in Co. Derry.”

    recently a “convicted IRA terorist” was elected Minister of education. Presumably that doesn’t bother elfinto.