EVEN though the image of Carrickfergus may have been damaged by the recent outbreak of violence which swept through Northern Ireland, a leading member of the Alliance Party has called on the people of the borough to “look to the future”.
Alderman Stewart Dickson – who stood as an East Antrim candidate in last month’s shadow Assembly election – said it was vital for the people of Carrick to remove the “dark spectre of sectarianism”.
And Mr. Dickson, a health spokesperson for the Alliance Party, has also described the intimidation and violence which flared in Carrickfergus as a form of “nazism” and “ethnic cleansing”.
The former Mayor of Carrickfergus is now calling on the people of the borough to “all they can” to improve the image of their area. He said that any hope of future investment and potential job creation in the borough lay “purely” with the people and local politicians.
But Mr. Dickson also pointed out that further outbreaks of violence would leave Carrickfergus “lagging behind” other towns in the province. He added that, with the new Assembly, it was now time for the people of Carrickfergus to move forward.
“The events which flared after the Drumcree stand-off in Portadown cast a long and dark shadow over the borough of Carrickfergus,” said the Alliance Councillor.
“Violence, mayhem, disorder and blatant sectarianism were all to evident in this borough in recent days. The intimidation which occurred in Carrickfergus can only be described as a sickening act of ethnic cleansing.
“Many Catholic families in the borough were intimidated, but many police officers in the town were also victimised by people who can only be described as thugs and animals.
“And at the height of the violence, what type of image was the borough portraying? An image where local hooligans had the authority to place young children at the burning barricades and road blockades. An image of sectarianism, hatred and bigotry.
“That’s why the recent levels of intimidation and attacks witnessed in Carrickfergus must not be allowed to happen again. We must fight against this hatred and we must do it together,” he said.
The Carrickfergus Councillor is also adamant that the people of the borough must do everything in their power to heal division and promote cross-community dialogue.
Mr. Dickson said: “We must not be allowed to forget about the victims of the past few weeks. They have suffered at the hands of evil and despicable thugs and we must all help them. It is clear that we must offer the hand of friendship.
“If we want to improve the image of our borough then we can start by showing the victims of intimidation that we care. It is essential that they don’t feel isolated at this moment. The thugs must not be allowed to win.”
And, in a further development, the Alliance Councillor has spoken of his contact with Americans who expressed concern about the situation in Northern Ireland and with Carrickfergus in particular.
“I have been inundated with calls from people in Carrick’s sister town in America. The people of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, were disgusted at the images on their television screens.
“They were genuinely concerned about the outbreaks of violence and intimidation, but what do I tell them now?
“Just before the referendum on May 22, American newspapers such as the New York Times painted a positive image of the town detailing its historical and cultural value to Northern Ireland.
“However, it is essential that we repair the image of this community. Carrick has great prospects and great potential. It must not be allowed to be destroyed by a small minority who are hell bent on causing death, destruction and mayhem,” said the Alliance man.