Petition modified after complaints from councillors

Anti-cemetery campaigner, Derek McCabrey.
Anti-cemetery campaigner, Derek McCabrey.

THE man behind the campaign opposing Newtownabbey Borough Council’s controversial plan to develop a cemetery within the Valley Park says he has modified the online petition so that individual councillors are no longer inundated with protest emails.

The council recently tasked consultants to look at the possibility of using the parkland beside the Children’s Hospice on the O’Neill Road to create an 18-acre cemetery - a move that has sparked outrage among some park users.

An online petition opposing the cemetery plan has attracted more than 4,000 signatories. However, one local councillor has hit out at the email campaign by objectors, saying public representatives have been inundated with correspondence from people all over the world.

The campaign email, which brands the council’s plan “totally inappropriate and brutally insensitive”, was being sent to each councillor individually. However, that has since been changed following complaints that elected representatives were being bombarded with ‘spam’ emails.

Councillor Tom Campbell, who works as a solicitor, described the email campaign as “over the top”.

He said that hundreds of emails were previously being sent to his work email account every day, clogging up his inbox.

“There is a limit to what the inbox can accept, so this has been very inconvenient for me.

“Everyone is entitled to make their case, within reason, and I welcome genuine correspondence from people who have a point to make. But when it is done on this sort of industrial scale and most of the people sending the emails have never been to Newtownabbey and know nothing about Newtownabbey then it becomes meaningless.”

The Alliance Party representative, who has already voiced his opposition to the Valley Park cemetery plan, added: “I took the time to look through some of the emails and undoubtedly some of them had genuine points to make, but no councillor has the time to go through thousands of emails trying to find the ones that are genuine.”

UUP councillor John Scott said he too had been inundated with emails, but that the council had then blocked them.

“A lot of them were spam emails from people using stupid names. There were some genuine ones in there, but because of all the stupid ones and the smut coming through I just deleted them. Inundating councillors like this is just defeating the purpose of the campaign.”

Councillor Scott urged people to “wait and see what the consultants come back with and what the plans actually are” before making their minds up about the future use of the park.

Responding to the councillors’ comments, the man behind the anti-cemetery campaign, Derek McCabrey said: “I have made changes (to the petition) so councillors will have nothing to complain about. The petition is still going, but emails will now be sent to the Mayor of Newtownabbey.”

In an email to the Times this week, Mr McCabrey added: “The target of the petition has been changed for now so as not to cause any further distress to the councillors, though I would like to reassure them that the petition is very much alive and growing by the day.”