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28 Nov 2021

MLA criticises 'divisive and crass' B Specials re-enactment in County Derry

The demonstration took place on Saturday.

MLA criticises 'divisive and crass' B Specials re-enactment in County Derry

A County Derry MLA has slammed a historical re-enactment held on Saturday afternoon as 'divisive and crass'.

An event held in Coleraine by Cuil Rathain Historical and Cultural Centre to mark the centenary of the establishment of Northern Ireland included a re-enactment of a B Specials checkpoint and drill demonstration as part of its itinerary.

Alongside music and dance demonstrations, involving bands and Lambeg drums, and children's arts and crafts activities, a group held a historical re-enactment, complete with uniforms and props.

The B Specials, known as the Ulster Special Constabulary, was formed just before partition, and was almost exclusively Protestant.

They were involved in a number of controversial incidents, including the attack on civil rights marchers at Burntollet in 1969, before being disbanded in 1970.

East Derry MLA Cara Hunter said the staging of the re-enactment was not appropriate.

"I am shocked that the organisers of this event thought that this was in any way appropriate," said the SDLP representative.

"Contrary to the public comments from the festival organisers, there is no positivity associated with this sectarian force that maimed and murdered Catholics at Civil Rights protests. 

Cara Hunter MLA

“The inclusion of this event in this centenary programme is divisive, crass and alienating. It sends a clear message that the organisers have no interest in promoting cross community cohesion.

"More to the point, it suggests that the B Specials represent the tradition of unionism here. That could not be further from the truth."

The event was advertised as being funded by the Ulster Scots Agency and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, with the organisations providing £2,359 and £3,796 respectively.

However, the Cuil Rathain Historical and Cultural Centre said the re-enactment had been entirely self-funded.

"We feel it is important that we, as the lead partner of the organising committee, clarify the situation in relation to funding arrangements in respect of the B Specials Historical Re-enactment group," they said.

"We wish to confirm that this element of the programme is being self-funded entirely by the organisers.

"No funding awarded by either Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council or the Ulster Scots Agency will be used in respect of this element of the event programme.

"We hope that this statement clarifies the situation and allays any concerns anyone may have."

On the day after the event, the group also shared what they described as an 'informative presentation' on the B Specials to their Facebook page.

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