28 May 2022

'Mulligan motion should be withdrawn,' says councillor who brought it

Cllr Yvonne Boyle has called on the amendment passed at the Leisure and Development Committee to be withdrawn.

'Mulligan motion should be withdrawn,' says councillor who brought it

An Alliance councillor whose original motion sparked controversy over its subject's history as a slave owner has called for it to be withdrawn ahead of tonight's full council meeting.

An amendment to Alderman Yvonne Boyle's proposal at last month's Causeway Coast and Glens Leisure and Development Committee meant the council committed to explore the establishment of a heritage trail to Hercules Mulligan.

Mulligan, thought to have been born in Coleraine, was one of the American founding fathers and his character featured in a recent Broadway musical, Hamilton, on the subject.

However, research from local history group Limavady Area Ancestry, run by Fiona Pegrun and Stephen McCracken, subsequentlyy revealed he had been a slave owner, using census data to back up the claim.

The revelation provoked a backlash from the North West Migrants' Forum, who wrote to the council with the backing of eighteen community groups asking for the motion to be rescinded.

Now Alderman Boyle has called for the motion to be withdrawn, describing the incident as a 'learning experience'.

"History is a messy business and there is never just one version of events," she said.

"Hercules Mulligan was a complex character. This issue was originally taken forward at the request of a constituent in good faith and it was not my intention to offend anyone.

"Further details of his slave-owning have emerged subsequently which were not in the public domain at the time. I have met with various groups since then and explained that in person.

"I believe the amended motion should now be withdrawn by the UUP.  Councillors wanted to promote a more positive view of the local area but as more about Hercules Mulligan has been discovered, it is clear that cannot be the case with this figure.

"It is important history is acknowledged and not ignored. The impact of emerging links to slavery in Northern Ireland need to be recognised and how these affect respect for our diverse population in the present day. 

"Any future heritage projects should not about celebrating anyone but rather providing a balanced and critical assessment of who they were and actions they carried out.

"We all must challenge perceptions of history as it has been written to date. This has been a learning experience for me and I hope for others.”

The motion is due to be discussed at tonight's full meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

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