For what purpose will the special Belfast City Council meeting go ahead on Monday evening?

belfast city council logoBelfast City Councillors took their opportunity on Thursday evening to scold and support the Lord Mayor Niall Ó Donnghaile, following his decision to only present half of the Duke of Edinburgh awards at a ceremony last Monday night, and in particular to avoid presenting the award to a young woman who was down in the programme as belonging to an Army Cadet Force.

A summons signed by 21 unionist councillors was submitted on Thursday and a special meeting is still scheduled to go ahead on Monday night at 6pm to consider their motion:

This Council is appalled that the Lord Mayor politicised the Duke of Edinburgh Awards presentation in the 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 the 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.

Given the words exchanged on Thursday night and the Lord Mayor’s apology, what possible good can come from Monday’s meeting going ahead?

One of the most vocal councillors on the issue tweeted on Thursday night:

Lord Mayor has apologised firmly and committed to representing everyone in the City. He was wrong. He accepts that. Glad we can move forward

and

we won this issue.You can’t ask him to apologise and then fail to accept when they do.He’ll be judged by his future actions

Mike Nesbitt, UUP MLA, who was present at the awards ceremony, issued a statement to “welcome the apology which has been issued by the Lord Mayor following his highly regrettable behaviour on Monday night”. He added “I obviously cannot speak for the unionist Councillors at City Hall who I know were greatly concerned at the damage done to the good name of the City and the position of Lord Mayor.”

The phrase “lose lose” was used this morning by one Belfast unionist to describe the consequences of Monday night’s meeting.

There may yet be time to withdraw the motion and “move forward” rather than engage what the public may perceive as over-reaction and could end up with unionist infighting. If there is a purpose to the special meeting going ahead, you’ll be able to find out through the Belfast City Council webcast.

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  • Mick Fealty

    Interesting departure from the party line from young Gavin. I expect there’s a few things to talk about. The most obvious is why? Is likely to happen again?

  • Alias

    “Given the words exchanged on Thursday night and the Lord Mayor’s apology, what possible good can come from Monday’s meeting going ahead?” – Alan

    He has only met half of the what is required:

    “calls on the Lord Mayor to publicly apologise for his actions and the gross offence caused.”

    He has apologised for the latter but not the former. The good that could come from it, depending on the Lord Mayor, is that he affirms that he will not engage in further acts of sectarian discrimination against the city’s citizens. That should set a precedent for other Lord Mayors and civic authorities to rid the city of such unedifying displays of institutional sectarianism in future.

  • Chris Donnelly

    affirms that the civic position of the Lord Mayor is about representing and respecting everyone within this City

    Interesting to hear unionist councillors sign up to this in Belfast, not least because the very idea of power-sharing in the form of rotation of civic posts ai local council level is an anathema to their respectiveparty colleagues on so many unionist-dominated councils (including neighbouring Castlereagh.)

    I should think that nationalist councillors will waste little opportunity calling for a public apology from the unionist councillor who labelled Irish as ‘gobbledegook,’ and indeed Ruth Patterson may be invited to express remorse for her petulant behaviour in avoiding shaking the Mayor’s hand.

    Yes, I can see why it’s been described as a possible ‘lose, lose….’

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “we won this issue”

    That is what it is was all about. They ‘won’ the battle of the awards.
    As stated on the previous threads a benchmark has been set where ‘principles are to be set aside to represent all citizens.’ (Bob Stoker who previously fought the battle of Whitehall Square)
    This benchmark will be under great scrutiny, right across the board.

  • Cynic2

    ” the very idea of power-sharing ”

    You want power shaing – as you define it – because it suits your party. They dont. That’s politics. Get over it Chris

  • separatesix

    Why should groups feel they have a right to present things to be displayed by Belfast city council. Can we not have Christmas without it being poiliticized by Sinn Fein. Unfortunately the language is politicized so the sign was a bad idea. Personally I don’t think councils should be allowed to decide on symbols. It should be imposed centrally by Cameron’s government.

  • “I should think that nationalist councillors will waste little opportunity calling for a public apology from the unionist councillor who labelled Irish as ‘gobbledegook,’”

    Why just nationalist councillors, Chris? Shouldn’t all languages and those who speak them be treated with respect?

    I was very disappointed to hear recently that the place-name project at QUB had been wound-up last year; I’d previously been disappointed that the project, unlike the Scottish one, hadn’t given due respect to all linguistic roots.

    The ‘we ourselves’ approach by Unionists and Nationalists, even under the cover of ‘power sharing’, degrades and diminishes everyone and everything.

  • Dec

    ‘You want power shaing – as you define it – because it suits your party. They dont. That’s politics. Get over it Chris’

    That’s not what Peter said in ‘that’ speech, Cynic.

  • Dec

    ‘Why should groups feel they have a right to present things to be displayed by Belfast city council. Can we not have Christmas without it being poiliticized by Sinn Fein. Unfortunately the language is politicized so the sign was a bad idea. Personally I don’t think councils should be allowed to decide on symbols. It should be imposed centrally by Cameron’s government.’

    Surely Santa should have the final say-so?

  • JR

    Seperatesix,

    How exactly is the language politicised? The christmas lights are erected for the whole community and like it or lump it there are a large number of Irish speakers in Belfast. The signs are not saying Smash H block or Brits out, They are just saying happy Christmas in another way. Do you not think as an added benifit it is a message of welcome for the thousands of southern shoppers coming North to spend their hard earned money?

    Oh and Seperatesix: Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Duit

  • separatesix

    In Dublin the gaelic Christmas greeting is not out of place but NI is a divided society, so it could be divisive.
    Don’t speak gobbledegook to me JR.

  • JR

    Seperate six,

    I thought the trick was to learn to live with each others cultures not to ban anything which may be devisive. If we went down that road then there would be a ban on all Orange marches, the GAA, Ulster Scots etc.

  • Pat – the “the won the issue” was in the context of a reply to someone, so wasn’t necessarily a strong proclamation (though might have been), but more likely a response.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Alan,

    I hope that is the case and that it was just a response to someone else. It is simple to turn virtually any issue into a battle, especially within the domain of BCC. The mere thought of it brings on a depressive mood.
    Though I do believe that given the overall unionist response, on the back of the Robinson threat to bring down the Executive on the issue of Prison Service cap badges, does not bode well.

  • Tonight’s meeting still on, and will be webcast

  • … in the end the revolution special council meeting wasn’t televised webcast due to technical difficulties, though the recorded proceedings are expected to go online in the coming days.

  • Cynic2

    “special council meeting wasn’t televised webcast due to technical difficulties”

    perhaps it wasn’t suitable for viewing before the watershed

  • tomthumbuk

    I think it’s time to move on.
    He hasn’t apologised for what he did.
    He has apologised for the consequences that people may have experienced as a result of what he has done.
    That’s a different thing.
    Just so long as people aren’t under the impression that he has accepted what he did was wrong, because he hasn’t.

  • Bah! He erred badly; he acknowledged that fact and did apologise. Move on.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Joe

    You’re right. It is time to move on. Niall O Donnghaile has probably made himself unwelcome in unionist areas of Belfast which is unfortunate but not surprising. The fact that he apologised under duress hasn’t helped his cause. This is the reality of a divided country and indeed island. The unionist councillors need to let this go. Trying to twist the knife is not going to do anyone any good especially unionism as was shown last night at the back of the city hall.

    Hopefully SF will realise that if they are genuine about reaching out to unionist’s they need to stop speaking with what unionist’s see is a forked tongue. If your President can welcome our Queen to your beloved republic, maybe a SF Lord Mayor could have been a little more sensitive in his treatment of a young girl.

    I see another row is brewing about a Christmas message in irish outside the city hall. Unionism needs to be generous regarding the sign and indeed the language. I’m disappointed that they can’t bring themselves to allow this. Unionist’s need to reach out to irish speakers. The language has become politicized and if the unionist parties are genuine about attracting catholic’s to vote for them, then this is a chance to show that they can rise above petty politic’s. Why not have one in Scots, Polish, Manderin and Romanian as well. After all Christmas is supposed to be about people coming together.

  • Alan N/Ards,

    Totally agree with your final paragraph. If Robinson truly hopes to attract “Catholics” to his Party, making concessions on the Irish language would be a good first step towards establishing his good faith. (I don’t speak it but imagine that those who use it are mainly “Catholics”)

  • Niall back in the News Letter:

    THE Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast will tonight host a reception in recognition of the service of bus drivers during the Troubles – almost 40 years after his father was convicted of hijacking one of their vehicles at gunpoint.

    The bus driver, father-of-three Sydney Agnew, was shot dead by republicans in 1972 to stop him testifying.