Witch please | 

Unionist councillor questions ‘innocence’ of 18th century Islandmagee witch trial victims

Previously, the late TUV councillor Jack McKee had also said he remained to be convinced that the women were not guilty of Satanic practices

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy ReporterBelfast Telegraph

A Larne councillor has raised questions over whether eight women and a man who were found guilty of witchcraft in the 18th century were actually innocent.

A historic plaque is to be placed at the Gobbins Visitor Centre in Islandmagee marking the last witch trial to be held in Ireland.

A line saying: “Today the community recognises your innocence” was dropped from the proposed plaque wording.

The Islandmagee Witch Trial took place on March 31, 1711 when eight women and one man were found guilty of witchcraft.

They were Janet Carson, Janet Latimer, Janet Main, Janet Millar, Janet Liston, Margaret Mitchell, Catherine McCalmond, Elizabeth Sellor and William Sellor.

They were put in stocks and jailed for a year.

The Gobbins cliff path

The installation of a plaque at the Gobbins Visitor Centre was approved by the legacy Larne Borough Council in 2015.

Alliance Councillor Maeve Donnelly asked Mid and East Antrim interim chief executive Valerie Watts recently to progress the project.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council agreed earlier this year to work with a research team from Ulster University to establish a heritage exhibition based on the theme of ‘The Islandmagee Witches 1711’ in the borough.

The council’s Borough Growth Committee was told at a meeting at Smiley Buildings in Larne earlier this week that officers are in the process of confirming a location for the plaque.

Questioning the proposed wording for the plaque at the meeting, Ulster Unionist councillor Keith Turner asked if those listed were found to be innocent or guilty.

He queried if it is within the council’s capacity to say they were innocent.

He went on to say that he is “all for tourism”, but he questioned whether or not the council had the power to “overturn” the verdict.

Alliance councillor Robert Logan joked: “There are no such thing as witches.”

“How can you be accused of being a witch if there is no such thing as a witch?” he asked.

Mr Turner maintained that until 1821, there was such a thing as being tried for being a witch.

In 2015, the late TUV councillor, Jack McKee, sparked controversy when he objected to the memorial, saying any such plaque could become a “shrine to paganism” and was “anti-God”.

The born again Christian had said he remained to be convinced that the women were not guilty of Satanic practices.

Mr McKee had said at the time he “could not tell whether or not the women had been rightly or wrongly convicted as he didn’t have the facts and was not going to support devil worship”.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr Donnelly said: “I am delighted that the plaque is finally being progressed after being agreed back in 2015 by council.

“It is long overdue that these women (and one man) have been commemorated.”

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