19 May 2022

CAUSEWAY COAST AND GLENS: Consultation on Mark Ashton memorial approved

The Council's Corporate Policy and Resources Committee approved an SDLP motion calling for consultation.

CAUSEWAY COAST AND GLENS: Consultation on Mark Ashton memorial approved

Councillors at a meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council have approved a motion calling for consultation with the family of LGBTQ campaigner Mark Ashton over a memorial within the Borough.

Mark Ashton was a co-founder of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group and was a prominent campaigner for LGBTQ rights throughout the 1980s.

An SDLP motion was brought before the committee tonight calling for Council to consult with Mark Ashton's family and LGBTQ groups on proceeding with a memorial for him in the town of Portrush.

Ashton studied for a period at the former NI Hotel and Catering College in the town before moving to London in 1978.

Proposing the motion, Cllr Margaret Anne McKillop drew the committee's attention to an online petition with over 28,000 signatures, and £4,500 raised for the memorial through online crowdfunding.

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) on parade in the 1980s.

The Committee were told the move would have no financial implications, but current Mayor Mark Fielding of the DUP objected to the motion, citing Mr Ashton's Communist links.

Cllr Fielding also criticised Ashton's links to the miners' strikes, saying they were deemed 'illegal'.

UUP councillor Darryl Wilson said councillors should look at Mark's work on LGBTQ rights, rather than any political affiliation.

"When we look at the life of Mark Ashton, we could of course focus on his political affiliations, be that Communism, socialism, or any other -ism," he said.

"Having political freedoms within this diverse United Kingdom is very important, but what I want to focus on is that Mark did try to promote the advancement of LGBTQ rights throughout the 1980s.

"That on its own is commendable, at a time when being part of the LGBTQ community was very difficult. It was frowned upon and had a devastating impact on so many young people at that time.

"Thankfully, Northern Ireland is becoming a more progressive society, and for that fact alone, the work that Mark carried out is very commendable and should be noted."

The motion passed by ten votes to five and will now move forward to next week's full council meeting for approval.

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