Appeal to ensure ‘working CCTV’ after series of Glengormley War Memorial attacks

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has backed a motion condemning “sectarian hate crimes and continual damage” at Glengormley War Memorial

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 12:30 pm

The council has also offered an assurance to the community that “all possible measures will be taken to investigate reports, prevent further incidents and bring perpetrators to justice”.

The motion was proposed by Glengormley DUP Councillor Alison Bennington seconded by party colleague Deputy Mayor Stephen Ross, a Threemilewater representative, at a meeting of the council on Monday evening.

It comes after a spate of attacks at the war memorial during which poppy wreaths were destroyed at the Lilian Bland Park cenotaph.

The Mayor, Cllr Billy Webb, recently relaid a wreath on the memorial, included are the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Stephen Ross, Ald Julian McGrath, Cllr Victor Robinson and Ald Phillip Brett.

Speaking at Monday’s  meeting, Cllr Bennington said that the attacks had caused “physical and emotional damage” and had sent out a “vile message”.

“There are those who want to protect the memorial and what it stands for,” she stated.

She proposed that this “hate crime” be investigated and asked for the local authority to ensure that all cameras are in working order and for those responsible to be prosecuted within hate crime legislation.

She said that it would send out a message that anyone “intent on causing damage” will be prosecuted.

Cllr Ross noted that attacks have occurred on November 18, 2020, April 1 and July 8, in the middle of the day.

He pointed out that the war memorial is where the sacrifice of all citizens, Catholic and Protestant and those of other faiths or none are honoured.

He said he could recall the names of many battles during which these young men fought “shoulder to shoulder” and named Nationalists who had been to the fore of conflicts.

He went on to say that Mid and East Antrim Council had installed temporary CCTV in response to an attack at a cenotaph and called for a similar response at Glengormley cenotaph.

An audit carried out earlier this year in Antrim and Newtownabbey found CCTV in the “wider Glengormley area” to be “very poor”.

An inspection of CCTV cameras in the borough during routine planned maintenance revealed that two in town centres and three at council properties were not working.

Concerns include “poor quality” of images and “poor or no images at night time” with frequent breakdowns and replacement parts said to be “obsolete” and equipment becoming “impossible to maintain”.

Dunsilly Sinn Fein Cllr Henry Cushinan said that he agreed with the sentiment of the motion and had “no problem” supporting it and condemned the attacks on the memorial.

He noted that the motion comes in the month of July adding that there have been “many other hate crimes in the council area” which he said included the burning of election posters and effigies of Nationalist figures who are held in “high regard” in the community from which they come before asking for an amendment to the motion to include all hate crimes.

Threemilewater Alliance Alderman Tom Campbell said that while he supports the motion and has “every sympathy with the sentiment and frustration” involved, he noted that any responsible local authority will readily condemn hate crimes where they occur.

He added that available evidence should be placed before the police.

“If our CCTV cameras are not working,they should be made to work,” he stated.

He went on to say that those who have caused criminal damage to council property should always be prosecuted where there is evidence to identify those involved although it is a matter for the PSNI not the council to “bring perpetrators to court”.

Glengormley Ulster Unionist Ald Mark Cosgrove spoke of the need to get evidence to provide to police.

He spoke of what he described as the “vile individual who thinks it is acceptable to besmirch people who have fought and died for people from all sections of the community”.

Antrim SDLP Cllr Roisin Lynch said: “This motion allows us to reaffirm condemnation of sectarian hate crime.”

The council’s chief executive Jaqui Dixon told the meeting: “We have a programme in terms of replacing and upgrading of CCTV cameras.”

She also noted education that can be carried out through Good Relations and PCSP (Policing and Community Safety Partnership)”.

Cllr Ross asked if the park gates could be locked.

“There is no bar to stop anybody quickly getting into the cenotaph.”

Mayor Cllr Billy Webb MBE said: “That is easily dealt with.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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Click here to read: Community wardens to conduct increased patrols in Glengormley

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