FROM Unison Member, Ballyoran
I read with concern the article in last week’s paper regarding the proposal to erect a plinth on the pedestrian plaza outside St Mark’s Church to commemorate the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912. As a nationalist and a resident of Portadown, I would like to place on record my objections to locating such a plinth prominently within the town centre, especially one inscribed with the false claim of having been erected by “the people of Portadown”.
Such a claim will not be reflective of my views or those of my family, friends and neighbours – all residents of Portadown, unless of course we, as nationalists, are still viewed as non-persons.
Such a spurious claim completely disregards all those nationalists in Portadown who in 1912 supported Home Rule. It also completely disregards the fact that today, several thousand residents of Portadown are Irish nationalists who vote for Irish nationalist parties.
Furthermore, the erection of this unionist plinth by a joint committee comprised of members of the Orange Order and Black Institution will contribute nothing to the efforts of those who have been attempting to create the notion of a shared or neutral town centre accessible to all. This proposal certainly will negate those efforts.
Given the fact that several million pounds of public money was spent on Portadown town centre in recent years through public realm works to encourage people into the town, I wonder what those who funded that project will now say to the erection of a clearly political and divisive symbol, within those publicly-funded areas, which will clearly define those same areas as the sole and exclusive preserve of one section of the community.
Surely, equality legislation must have some relevance in relation to this as all public authorities are required to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, and racial group. When was any Equality Impact Assessment conducted in relation to this proposal which would have required planning approval? Who was consulted? Why the silence from our nationalist councillors?
Furthermore, it would be interesting to learn from the DOE planning office when any advertisement notifying the public of the intention to erect this plinth was published.
Might I also suggest that shops and businesses in Portadown town centre who are already feeling the financial pinch will not find their efforts to attract much needed trade helped by the proposed presence of a clearly political one-sided monument at a prominent location in the centre of the town.
Anyone for buses to Craigavon shopping centre or Newry?