26 May 2005 Edition
Praise the Lord and pass the Schloer!
BY PEADAR WHELAN
Travelling to Ballymena on Monday night with Monica Digney, was a bit like walking into a lion's den.
Speculation had been rife since she became the first Sinn Féin member of the DUP-dominated council that loyalists would be staging a protest, no doubt incensed at the affrontery of a republican taking her seat in Big Ian's backyard.
Except it isn't Big Ian's back yard, and the ever increasing Sinn Féin vote in North Antrim gives the lie to that. Sinn Féin's mandate in the constituency demonstrates the folly of the Paisley policy of 'Smash Sinn Féin'. Who can forget the mid 1980s and the images of the 'The Big Man' with his big sledgehammer vowing to destroy Sinn Féin? Needless to say, Monica's appearance in Ballymena Council shone the spotlight on just how unsuccessful that policy was.
In the end, there was no protest and so the tension that was present among the small group of Sinn Féin members w business of the night, filling the committee seats. And with the odd gerrymander here and there which saw Monica voted down, things again went quietly enough.
The PUP's Billy McCaughey, the former RUC member who served life for shooting dead Catholic chemist William Strathearn in 1977, sat in the public gallery behind the DUP's Davy Tweed.
As they chatted amicably for a minute or two, I wondered how this sat with the DUP's stated policy of having no dealings with terrorists.
At the end of the meeting, the stampede for the door began. The smokers and those in need of fresh air led the charge.
Then it was in for a post meeting buffet meal, where everyone broke bread together. And of course the liquid refreshment on offer was Schloer. Well, it is Ballymena after all, where the Free Presbyterian writ runs large.
Calling all Six-County PROs and councillors
An Phoblacht does not have photographs of many of our newly-elected councillors across the Six Counties. We would appreciate it if successful candidates or their PROs could forward photographs to our Dublin office ASAP, either by mail to 58 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, or preferably, in jpeg format by email to : [email protected]