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Alderman Audrey Wales MBE calls for councillor to apologise after “crass” memorial garden comments

Alderman Audrey Wales MBE has hit back after Ulster Unionist Councillor Keith Turner expressed concern that Ballymena’s Memorial Garden would become “something of a theme park”.

Alderman Audrey Wales MBE

The comments were made during a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, when permission was granted for the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles Memorial Association to erect a memorial and information panel in tribute to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

At the meeting DUP councillor Audrey Wales proposed that the memorial goes ahead, saying: "I am delighted to see this come to fruition despite some of the obstacles people have raised previously."

Seconding the proposal, Ulster Unionist Councillor Keith Turner said: "I'm obviously going to second this proposal. I'm all for it. However, I do feel that perhaps the memorial garden is now becoming a little overcrowded. A memorial garden is a place of remembrance and reflection. I am just a little bit worried it is becoming something of a theme park. I always believe that people go there to remember, not to go round to see the different things, as if it is a display. I will second this, but in future, I think we need to look at what we are going to put in and how much ground there is as well."

UUP Councillor Keith Turner

Responding on Friday to Councillor Turner’s comments, Alderman Audrey Wales MBE told Love Ballymena: “I know I’m not alone when I say I was appalled at the comparison Ballymena’s Memorial Park to a theme park.

“Our Memorial Park provides a fitting sanctuary for families from right across the area to reflect and remember all our citizens who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“To liken it to a theme park is not only crass, it is a huge slight on the memories of those we remember and their families.

“Councillor Turner should know better and he should apologise immediately for his deeply offensive remarks.”