“bright colours and/or striped materials should not be worn as these may distort the images” … a summons … and a protest … it’s democracy live

belfast city council logoTomorrow could be an interesting day – and night – around Belfast City Hall.

A rally is being planned to protest at the Lord Mayor’s actions at Monday night’s Duke of Edinburgh Award ceremony.

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The people of Belfast will emerge on the City hall tomorrow night at 6pm [or 5pm depending on where you look] to express their anger. We would hope that Citizens from all over Northern Ireland will join for this peaceful protest. Sinn Fein IRA member Niall Ó Donnghaile should re-sign from office with immediate effect as he has shown his true colours within the last month. So much for moving on.

Meanwhile, unionist councillors have joined together to produce “a summons for a special council meeting to discuss the actions of the Lord Mayor”. Signed by DUP, UUP, PUP councillors (though not clear if by all) and independent unionist Frank McCoubrey, the summons will be presented to council officials at 9am on Thursday morning.

This council: Is appalled that the Lord Mayor politicised the Duke of Edinburgh Awards presentation in City Hall on 28th November by refusing to present an award to a young member of the Armed Cadet Forces; affirms that the civic position of Lord Mayor is about representing and respecting everyone within this city and calls on the Lord Mayor to publicly apologise for his actions and the gross offence caused. Failure to do so immediately would render his position untenable and he should resign.

Robin Newton (DUP) and David Brown (UUP) jointly stated:

The Lord Mayor has brought his office into disrepute by his actions and it is hard to underestimate the groundswell of public revulsion that he has generated. The vast majority of Belfast people, regardless of their background are appalled by his actions. It is now beyond any reasonable doubt that he has no intention of acting as a Lord Mayor for everyone.

Throughout his term of office he has behaved in an exclusionary and backward-looking way. To snub a fifteen-year old child, on what should have been a happy ocassion [sic] for her and her family, represents one of the lowest points that City Hall politics has ever witnessed. Such petty bigotry has no place in modern society.

We are sending a message that all political representatives need to take a stand for genuine inclusion and fairness. At this juncture it is our hope that colleagues from other parties in the council will add their signatures to our requisition.

A sideshow that’s unlikely to be formally discussed at the full council meeting, yet will no doubt be continually referenced throughout the agenda.

Inside the chamber, it’ll be the first full night of live streaming of council business, a proposal brought by (then) SDLP councillor Niall Kelly two years ago, back in December 2009. According to the protocol that’s been drawn up “to ensure the maximum openness and transparency of Council business”:

The Lord Mayor will make an announcement at the start of each meeting reminding Members that the meeting is being broadcast live to the internet and will be capable of repeated viewing. The Lord Mayor will also advise that the webcasting of the meeting may be terminated or suspended at his/her discretion.

Specific seats have been assigned and Members must speak only from their allotted seat. This is important as, during the live streaming, the speaker’s name will be indexed onto the webcast.

Members should speak only when directed to do so by the Lord Mayor resulting in only one person speaking at a time. It is also important to ensure that Members switch on their microphone before speaking and to switch it off again once finished.

I’m not sure that last point will be terribly well adhered to!

It is recommended that bright colours and/or striped materials should not be worn as these may distort the images which are streamed live.

In the event of a vote, the live webcast will revert to a wide angle view of the Lord Mayor’s podium to allow for the voting to take place.

The protocol was drawn up after councillors had “previously indicated that thought should be given as to how the conduct of the Council meetings might be impacted upon when the live broadcasts commence. In particular Members were keen to ensure that the reputation of the Council would not be adversely affected.”

The live streaming will be suspended or terminated “only by the Lord Mayor (or the Deputy Lord Mayor in the absence of the Lord Mayor) if, in their opinion, continuing to webcast would prejudice the integrity of the meeting”.

Instances of inappropriate behaviour, such as prolonged use of offensive language; violence towards one another or to equipment/furniture may result in the termination of the live webcast.

It all starts at 6pm on a video screen near you. (Local) Democracy Live!

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