The decision of Larne Borough Council to raise a memorial plaque to eight women from east Antrim convicted of witchcraft in the early 1700s has been objected to by one Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) councilor on religious grounds, saying he would not support “devil worship.” Despite objections, the plaque will go up, with the majority of council members voting for the memorial.
According to the minutes of the meeting, Alderman Jack McKee said “he could not tell whether or not the women were rightly or wrongly convicted as he didn’t have the facts and he was not going to support devil worship.”
Speaking to the Larne Times later, he said the plaque would become a “shrine to paganism”, adding: “I could not support the proposal because I believe it to be anti-God.”
Martina Devlin, whose book “The House Where It Happened” about an Ulster witch trial is set to be turned into a film, said: “The eight women were convicted of witchcraft on nothing that we’d recognize as evidence today: it was all hearsay and one person’s uncorroborated word against theirs.
“I’m saddened that some people still think these poor souls don’t deserve justice, 300 years on, and that their reputations are still questioned today.”
She added that the council “deserves credit for agreeing to mark the fact that these women lived and died.”
DUP group leader on the council, Gregg McKeen, abstained from the vote and called the issue “a non-event.”
He said the monument is expected simply to mark a historic fact and nothing more.
“I’ve no issue either way. It’s not as if the plaque if going to glorify witches or witchcraft,” he said.
Speaking about the witch trial itself, he said: “Yes, the event happened; I’m not going into the details of whether it was right or wrong, whether the convictions were valid whether they weren’t valid...
“It’s given me something to do. I plan to read the book and increase my own knowledge. Maybe in a month or so when I get this book read I’ll be able to make a more informed comment.”
The council, consisting of 15 elected members, voted six in favor of the memorial, two against, and all others abstaining. The motion agrees “that council put some planting and a small plaque in place in the vicinity of The Gobbins Visitors Centre” to commemorate the trial and convictions of the women.