The Lengths A Mayor- And Some Senior Council Officers- Will Go To….

The case of the UUP Mayor of Lisburn, the leading loyalist and the Stoneyford beacon continues to rumble following the revelation that Mayor Ronnie Crawford invited loyalist Mark Harbinson into his chamber to help fill in his application form for money for the controversial 11th Night event in the village (Andersonstown News story not yet online.) The Mayor also called on the services of two senior Lisburn Council officials (Director of Leisure Services, Robert McKnight and Good Relations Officer, David Mitchell) to assist the leading loyalist figure in completing the form, which secured £2,400 worth of funding from the Community Relations Council (CRC) for the beacon gathering in the village. Mayor Crawford then attached a personal letter of recommendation to the application and arranged for a courier to collect the application form from Council premises (the issue of whether ratepayer’s money was used for this courtesy has not yet been confirmed by the Council.)The funding was subsequently withdrawn by the CRC when it was revealed that the Mayor had lit the beacon with a poster of the local Sinn Fein MLA on top of it. Of course, the village residents who days earlier had been intimidated from their homes by local loyalists remain far from impressed. The loyalist figure involved in organising the beacon gathering, Mark Harbinson, had just weeks earlier been arrested and questioned about a series of attacks and threats on another catholic family, who also fled the village.
Since the rendezvous in the Mayor’s parlour, Harbinson’s Pride of the Village flute band have applied to march on five evenings in the month of September, including in their proposed route the two mixed housing developments in the village which have been the setting for the on-going sectarian attacks in recent years, which has led to eight families fleeing the village as a consequence, but no prosecutions to date. The Parades Commission have taken firm action against the proposed September parades, something which has deeply angered long-time Harbinson associate, TUV councillor Cecil Calvert (pictured with the loyalis figure, the Mayor and two other ‘revellers’ at the 11th Night gathering above.)
Ironically, the latest information has come to light as a DUP and Sinn Fein-supported Council investigation into the role played by council staff in securing the funds continues as the former party’s ties with Mr. Harbinson have well and truly been cut following the latter’s well-publicised failure to become a party member some years ago. At that time, the resentful loyalist went on Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme to complain about how, as a party election worker, he had felt betrayed by the DUP, though he did thank the local representatives who supported his application.
The animosity between Harbinson and the DUP was confirmed at last year’s beacon gathering, when then DUP Mayor, James Tinsley, claimed he had been intimidated at the event by loyalists. Days prior to this year’s beacon burning, loyalists erected a large banner mocking the DUP councillor at the site of the beacon.