THE erection of a Commonwealth War Graves (CWG) sign at the entrance to Breandrum Cemetery has been rejected by Fermanagh District Council.
At Tuesday night’s Full Council meeting a recommendation to retain the Council Policy that permits general Council signage only at its cemeteries was passed.
But it was not without controversy.
At the latest Policy and Resources committee meeting councillors were reminded that a Working Group had been established to explore the issue of signage at Council-owned cemeteries.
It was the Working Group’s decision to halt any plans for the erection of the CWG sign.
The DUP’s Bert Johnston, who sat on the Working Group, made it clear on Tuesday night that he was not happy with the decision.
“I think it’s very petty that we have to go through all this just to do that small thing for the people that are buried in these cemeteries,” he said, “These people laid down their life so that we could be free. I could not support this in any way and I ask that I be recorded as discenting.” Acting Chief Executive, Robert Gibson informed him that as he had not attended the meeting when the decision was made, he could not be recorded as discenting.
“I’m not worried whether it’s on paper,” Mr. Johnston told him, “I’m making it absolutely clear that I am not agreeing to this -- it doesn’t matter whether it’s on paper or not. I just want people to know that.” UUP councillor, Basil Johnston said those in support of the recommendation had a “lack of understanding” of the ultimate sacrifice made by the fallen in World War One.
“Republicans are opposed to this sign,” he said, “Their actions have shown a great disservice to the people who fell. They volunteered and were mowed down like flowers.
“It was only a small sign and this should have been a non-contentious issue.” Sinn Fein councillor, Ruth Lynch rejected his claims.
“Thank you for the history lesson but that is not what this was about,” she told him, “This was about whether or not to have a Council policy. Everything we do, we do it by Council policy. We can’t have precedences. This was not against a particular group or people at all,” she added.
“I would take some convincing on that one,” Bert Johnston retorted, insisting: “I cannot be silenced!” Newcomer to the chamber, Martin McGovern attempted to appease the situation.
“I wouldn’t like the message to go out that this was one side of the community against another. I had a great uncle lost in the First World War. We have a shared history and this was not about one side versus the other.”