A previous Orange Walk processing through Dumbarton. Pictures by Bill Heaney
By Bill Heaney
Large Orange Walks will take place in Dumbarton and Alexandria next Saturday – despite the fact that two councillors said they had received death threats for opposing similar gatherings in the past.
Councillors on the West Dunbartonshire Council licensing committee met for two-minutes on Thursday when the application from Dumbarton Orange and Purple District No 27 was unanimously given the green light.
A local woman had complained to the council that people would be going to St Patrick’s Church in Strathleven Place around that time for Mass. She feared for their safety.
But her objection, the only opposition to the procession which was received by the Council, was withdrawn before the specially called meeting.
West Dunbartonshire Council leader, Councillor Jonathan McColl SNP, explained to officials and members that, due to the late withdrawal of the objection, the meeting still had to go ahead to comply with council regulations.
Both Douglas McAllister and Jonathan McColl confirmed that chilling remarks were made to them after they opposed a procession by the Provincial Grand Black Chapter back in 2009.
Ex-Provost Douglas McAllister spoke angrily this week about a lack of courage by the council to try and enforce change which was being widely sought after high profile instances of anti Catholic/Irish racism.
SNP councillor Karen Conaghan had raised a motion having been contacted by “distressed” constituents over anti-Catholic songs, including the infamous Famine Song, being sung and slogans being painted on walls and streets locally.
A number of people have been arrested and charged in connection with this and will ne appeariung in court at a later date.
The previous Sunday a group of football fans were filmed walking through the city centre singing “the famine is over, why don’t you go home”.
Days earlier, on September 2, Councillor McAllister said that tough action needs to be taken to stop such incidents happening and that the motion before the council and the decision simply to note matters didn’t go far enough.
He said bringing the matter to the council was pointless since since they did nothing about it – “I had expected something brave and bold come back to this council.”
“We have not addressed the issue of marches. I will move that this is continued to the next council meeting for us to receive a response from the Scottish Government and to allow council to consider that response.”
Cllrs Jonathan McColl and Douglas McAllister, who claim having had death threats and Cllr Karen Conaghan who complained about anti Catholic/Irish songs and slogans.
Cllr McAllisterr told how he had made statements in the past which led to death threats being made in his name after opposing a march in 2009.
He said: “I was brave enough to move at a licensing committee that we should not allow the Grand Black Chapter to march in our town.
“Within three days they had had that decision overturned to allow them to march in our streets in West Dunbartonshire.
“As a result, I received a phone call informing me that very serious death threats had been received in my name.
“Local authorities don’t have the power to stop these marches in our streets. The only people who can do anything about it are the Scottish Government.”
Council leader Jonathan McColl earlier backed down on a cxomment he made accusing Cllr McAllsier of “faux anger” about the the issue.
He claimed that he too had received a death threat: “I had death threats following that. This is something we stand together on.”
Members had unanimously agreed to write to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon among others asking the issues to be addressed urgently nationally. The issue was continued to a future meeting.