Dungiven, sectarianism, and sports facilities

Traffic passing through the bottom of Main Street in Dungiven. LV43-719MML
Traffic passing through the bottom of Main Street in Dungiven. LV43-719MML

A dispute over multi-million pound plans for leisure facilities in Dungiven has brought threats of legal action and accusations of sectarianism and hypocrisy.

A Sinn Féin councillor has said his party is considering legal action over a delay in plans to build state-of-the-art leisure facilities in Dungiven. Another Sinn Féin councillor, meanwhile, has accused unionists of hypocrisy and sectarianism over the Dungiven dispute.

Plans for a new sports, leisure and community facility have been under development for approximately three years and are currently at a highly advanced stage. The multi-million pound plans had been previously agreed at Limavady Borough Council and the Statutory Transition Committee (the body set up prior to the establishment of the new Causeway Coast and Glens super-council).

However, the plans had seemingly been put in jeopardy at the end of last month after the newly-elected members of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council failed to give them the go ahead.

The shadow super council put a moratorium on spending for a month. A Sinn Féin motion to allow the Dungiven proposal to be heard separately was voted down by 19 votes to 15.

Concerns had been raised that there was not enough information for the proposal to be proceed.

After a further delay following a meeting in Coleraine on Thursday (July 24), Sinn Féin councillor Tony McCaul, who sits on both Limavady Borough Council and the new Causeway Coast and Glens shadow council, has now warned that his party is considering legal action. He described the new council as a “cold place for republicans and nationalists.”

Mr McCaul said: “Weeks ago all the information was provided at a workshop in Coleraine. The need for the project was satisfied,a grant of £2.5 million was coming from DCAL all we wanted was for approval to move to the next stage, which is essential for the project to survive.

“We were denied that and the project was deferred again. No reasonable explanation was given. Yes, this new council is a cold place for republicans and nationalists. Be assured that we will not take this lying down. We are, as of now, considering our options and would not rule out legal action.”

In March last year, unionists councillors in Limavady had criticised the project, saying that it was only for “one side”. The DUP’s George Robinson said he would never ever deny anyone sporting facilities, but he’d like to think the Protestant community could avail of them. He said Dungiven was “perceived to be a cold place for the unionist community”, and referred to items for Dungiven Hunger Striker Kevin Lynch in the town.

The TUV’s Boyd Douglas said of the proposed location for the new facilities, the Curragh Road in Dungiven: “The Protestants are not going into Dungiven, whether you like it not. They are not going down the Curragh Road.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Sean McGlinchey, though, has accused unionists of hypocrisy over the dispute. He said: “I believe that this decision is due to a sectarian attitude from Unionist councillors against Dungiven.

“There is clear hypocrisy from unionist councillors supporting the project at Limavady Borough Council but then voting against or abstaining during votes on the project at Causeway coast and Glens Council.

“I have submitted a proposal for a recall of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council in order to get agreement the Dungiven sports facilities is included in the capital projects scheme. It is a disgrace this project has been put on hold - the people of Dungiven and surrounding areas have no adequate sports facilities and any attempt to deny new facilities is blatant sectarian discrimination. All we are demanding is the same level of facilities that are currently accessible in other areas.”