The Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon has unearthed a letter written by the DUP leader, and now First Minister, Ian Paisley in 2003 to the Heritage Lottery Fund after they had turned down an application by controversial developer Seymour Sweeney for a grant for the Giants’ Causeway World Heritage Trust connected to his proposed development – of which Mr Paisley was to be a trustee.
Written on headed Commons paper, it denounced the grounds for turning down the grant bid as “absolute rubbish”. It also claimed, more than once, that Mr Sweeney’s visitor centre plans had the support of UNESCO, the UN body which oversees world heritage sites like the Causeway. It said: ” UNESCO saw and approved the plans, and were very impressed by the proposal.”
Mr Sweeney has spoken publicly about holding a highly-favourable meeting with senior UNESCO official Mechtild Rossler in 2001.
Ms Rossler has contested any suggestion of endorsement, and would not have had the authority to personally sign the organisation up to the project in any case.
She has made clear to the Belfast Telegraph that she would not support anything without going through the necessary UNESCO procedures.
She has also stated that UNESCO does not “decide on proposals” and that this would be a matter for Government bodies in the light of the UNESCO 2003 report.
Ms Rossler further said: “We were absolutely clear that any new visitor centre must be built in the footprint of the centre that was burnt down. That is my position and I am not moving one millimetre.”
A DUP source told the Belfast Telegraph that Mr Paisley Snr had met with a UNESCO official to discuss the Causeway situation.
Mr Sweeney’s proposals at the 2001 meeting differed in a key respect from those on the table by 2003. His 2001 blueprint was to have been located on Moyle Council’s land above the Causeway.
By 2003 – the time of Mr Paisley’s letter – his proposal was for an alternative location on his own land.
In a lengthy article on the links between DUP members and the young-Earthers the British Centre for Science Education points to the promotion of some of their non-evolutionary beliefs.
In a letter to the Belfast Newsletter [added link] published on 6th June 2006 George Dawson stated: “Over recent months myself and colleagues, David Simpson MP and Mervyn Storey MLA, have been pressing government on the need to ensure that interpretation at the new Causeway interpretative centre is inclusive of the views expressed by Rev Dr Greer and elaborated upon in the article by Dr Tas Walker. This is a matter of equality and tourism opportunity. In equality terms it is incumbent upon government not to discriminate against this equally scientific viewpoint and those who believe it.”
In the original 3rd June 2006 article Greer claimed that the Causeway was formed 4,500 years ago during Noah’s flood. Greer pushed the pamphlet on the Causeway by Tas Walker of Answers in Genesis. Presumably Greer was angling to get Answers in Genesis material in the Causeway Centre. Greer’s arguments about the age of the Causeway, no doubt entirely lifted from the AiG material are risible. Science strongly suggests it was formed about 60-65 million years ago.
The stakes for the creationists are very high. The Giant’s Causeway attracts some 500,000 visitors a year and is Northern Ireland’s largest tourist attraction. Both for school children studying geography or geology it is a major element in field studies. Getting creationism into the new Causeway visitor centre, believed to cost around £20 million, will be a huge coup for the creationists. No wonder they are putting so much effort into it. Again, it is exactly the same game being played by fundamentalists in the United States with the Grand Canyon.
A publicly funded Causeway Centre wouldn’t be as free to decide what materials were used in an intrepretive centre.