A COUNCIL FUNDED commemoration of the Ulster Special Constabulary (known colloquially as the ‘B Specials’) has drawn fierce criticism from nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland, after it was revealed that Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Bateson was gagged on speaking about the issue by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
The ‘B Specials’ were formed in October 1920, just before the Government of Ireland Act and the partition of the island was brought into effect.
The force proved extremely controversial during its 50 year tenor, owing to the fact that many of its initial recruits were “incorporated en masse” from loyalist paramilitary the UVF, as well as having been responsible for multiple civilian deaths in subsequent decades, including the McMahon murders of March 1922 and the Arnon Street massacre in April 1922.
The ‘B Specials’ are perhaps best known, however, for their violent opposition to the People’s Democracy and Catholic Civil Rights movement during the late 1960s, injuring over 100 peaceful protesters at a march near Burntollet, Co. Derry in January 1969, and aggravating tensions between Catholics and Protestants which ultimately led to the Battle of the Bogside in Derry City, August 1969.
Despite their chequered history, the unionist-dominated Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council based in Co. Antrim, agreed a motion to fund a recent commemoration for the force on Saturday 16 October.
When questioned about this at a council meeting yesterday, Council Chair John McAuley called any opposition to the event part of a ‘republican agenda’, going on to state:
“As the proud son of a B-man, I will not be letting you [Councillor Bateson] try and take over this Committee tonight to whitewash history.”
For his part, the Sinn Féin councillor who originally raised the objection, Sean Bateson, said:
“My community was disgusted at this event and the re-enactment featuring a military display of the B-Specials.
“The history of the B-Specials speaks for itself. It was effectively established as the paramilitary wing of the Orange state and was designed to subjugate nationalists and republicans.
“For nationalists and republicans, such an event yet again clearly illustrates that the centenary of Partition is being used by certain quarters as a show of triumphalism.”
Soon after, Councillor Bateson was ‘prohibited from speaking’ after the majority-DUP council voted nine votes to two in favour of dropping the item from the Any Other Business point of the agenda.
Commemorative events surrounding the centenary of Partition have already proved controversial this year, with Uachtarain Michael D. Higgins causing a stir when he refused to attend a Church service with Queen Elizabeth back in September.