‘Petition still alive and growing by the day’

Letter to the editor...

I WOULD like to take this opportunity to address councillor Tom Campbell’s concerns about the petition against the converting of Valley Park into a super cemetery and to give an update on the progress of the petition itself.

To date there are 4,229 concerned signatories to the petition which should be sending a considerable message to the council. I fear though that the message is not getting through to the councillors who support the proposal as the main thrust of their objection to the petition appears to be the number of repetitive emails that they have been receiving and the fact that there are signatories from outside the United Kingdom. I wish to address this matter now.

It is normal for petition emails to be repetitive, however that is not the point. The point is that 4,229 people have told the councillors that they object to their proposal of turning Valley Park into a super cemetery. Cllr Campbell recently pointed out that such a strategy may harden the councillors’ attitudes towards further support for the proposal and I would say that this is a red herring, as it should be obvious at this stage, that the council will be pinning its hopes on a successful and favourable report from the appointed consultants. It is therefore unlikely that any councillor that has voted in favour of the proposal would “harden” their stance at this stage.

However, because of Cllr Campbell’s concerns, 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. With regard to voters from outside the UK, I can assure the councillor that this figure represents just less than 2.5 per cent of the total vote. I sincerely hope that the councillors will now be able to put their minds at ease with regard to this matter. I would also encourage Cllr Campbell and any others that if they have any further concerns that they can contact me directly rather than through the media and I will be happy to address their concerns.

I would have to say to the councillors though, and I hope that they would agree, that such matters regarding emails are entirely trivial when compared to the issue of the eventual removal of Valley Park, the building of Phase 1 of the super cemetery and its proximity to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice.

The search for a new cemetery has been on the council table for a number of years now and has had a chequered history, even to the extent of being postponed in 2009. Indeed, the impact of putting a cemetery right beside a hospice for children, I believe, has not had any serious consideration or analysis in the council’s deliberations on the matter. For me and many others then, the choice of Valley Park smacks of desperation, given the apparent resolution so late in the day.

But it is not too late and I would therefore appeal to the residents of Newtownabbey to make your voice heard and continue to support the petition, write to the council about your thoughts on the matter or your experience because it is extremely important that the council understands that this proposal is wrong and will lead to unnecessary suffering of children and relatives who are already suffering.

Derek McCabrey (via email)

• Editor’s note: Newtownabbey Borough Council has stressed that no decisions have yet been made regarding the future of the Valley Park site.

Councillor Tom Campbell was one of only two elected representatives who voted against spending £90,000 on appointing consultants to assess the suitability of the Valley Park site for cemetery use.