DUP proposal to grant freedom of Lisburn to the Orange Order

At tonight’s monthly meeting of Lisburn City Council, Alderman Givan (DUP) proposed that the contribution of the Orange Order throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland be recognised by conveying the Freedom of Lisburn on the organisation. [I recorded a quick interview with Paul Givan after the council meeting ended.]

The freedom of the city is usually only given once per council term. Blind water skier Janet Gray, cardiologist Frank Pantridge (who pioneered the portable defibrillator), Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters, the RUC and the RIR have all been given the freedom of the city (or borough – before Lisburn was a city) in the past.

No councillor recorded a conflict of interest at the start of the council meeting.

Givan outlined the context for the DUP’s proposal, explaining that around 5000 groups use the 500 Orange halls across Ireland, supporting craft projects, music groups, and play grounds. Facilities are sought after in rural areas where there is no government funding for rural areas.

Givan also highlighted that individual lodges as well as districts carry out extensive fund raising that benefits all sections of the community. He saw the Orange Order as “part of the fabric of our community … as we try to build a shared community”.

Activities that the Orange Order is better known for – eg, the erection of arches, blocking of traffic, hiring of bands, fighting for religious freedoms – were not mentioned by Givan as he explained the context for his motion. (Speaking to the BBC outside the Council building, Alderman Givan said “This motion is absolutely nothing to do with getting the right to march in Lisburn”.)

He wanted the motion to be taken forwards “constructively” and “sensitively”.

Tonight’s motion proposed sending the suggestion to the council’s Corporate Services Committee where there would be an equality screening exercise before perhaps proceeding to a full Equality Impact Assessment.

The motion was proposed. Alliance Councillor Dornan indicated his wish to speak about the motion, though not to second it. A seconder was quickly taken – guaranteeing that the motion would proceed to committee (given the number of unionist councillors) before the Mayor Leathem returned to Dornan, pre-empting his remarks by claiming that he was about to “stifle debate” through his opposition.

Dornan [interviewed later] spoke about the need for the freedom of the city to be awarded to “exceptional” individuals and organisations. He acknowledged community use of Orange halls, but pointed to other organisations including churches which opened up their halls too, and praised the GAA’s contribution to the community.

I cannot see that the community service provided by the Orange Order is beyond that of those other organisation.

He listed three concerns with the Orange Order:

  • Membership of the Orange Order is not open to Catholics and non-Christians. [Ed – not to open to women either.]
  • Orange Order is not politically neutral.
  • The stance taken by [some] members of the Orange Order regarding the non-attendance at Catholic funerals (and the disciplinary procedure used against Tom Elliott) was “at odds” with the general public.

He concluded that the effect of taking the motion any further would be “divisive”.

Two other councillors rose to speak. Councillor Carson (SF) said that there were “numerous sensitivities in this proposal” and that the motion had “potential for disharmony and discord”. He wanted to see the shared future Alderman Givan had referred to, but the Orange Order had to reform.

Councillor Nelson (Independent) directed a question at the council Chief Executive asking whether there was a conflict of interest that should prevent the nine councillors who are members of the Orange Order from debating or voting on the issue.

The Mayor answered the question instead, saying that advice had been taken – though didn’t indicate whether the advice was from council officers or party lawyers – and said that the proposal was of “no benefit to us as individual members”.

Granting the freedom of the city to an organisation like the Orange Order would normally involve a large ceremony, catering, and a public parade. It’s conceivable that council costs could be in the region of £50,000. Councillors who were members of the organisation, lobbying for freedom to be conveyed on their organisation, would be incurring a large cost on behalf of the local ratepayers to support their organisation.

Interviewed afterwards, Alderman Givan (who is not a member of the Orange Order) stated that there was no pecuniary interest to individual councillors who were members.

The vote was a show of hands. All the DUP and UUP councillors present voted in support of the motion to send the proposal to the Corporate Services committee for equality screening. Alliance, Sinn Fein and the single independent councillor voted against the motion.

All three of the SDLP councillors were curiously absent, prompting the question of whether they were avoiding making their mind up and going on record about this motion, or just all way on holiday during the scheduled monthly meeting of the full council.

Three footnotes:

Alderman Givan will be off Lord Bannside’s Christmas card list since the Independent Orange Order were not in line to get freedom of the city! And the Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland may be miffed that they get to meet in the men’s halls, but don’t get any freedom.

Councillor Bell (SF) brought up the issue of the charity Race Against Multiple Sclerosis (RAMS) at the end of the meeting. Due to a flooded premises at the end of June, and prolonged wranglings over insurance, the charity have been out of action. While all councillors were happy to support raising the matter with the Health Minister, no one offered to investigate whether they could use an Orange hall!

Since Lisburn City Council forbid the public from using electronic devices during council meetings, none of this could be reported as it happened. And while the notice on each seat was reinforced by council staff with a verbal explanation to this blogger and a UTV journalist, it’s notable that other people in the public gallery (including a prominent ex-councillor’s son) were free to stab at their mobiles throughout council business and were not instructed or scolded.

None of the reports being noted by the councillors during tonight’s business were available to anyone who wasn’t a councillor, a council officer or an official member of the press sitting at their designated table. So the context of much of the debate and business was completely lost on anyone who chose to come along to watch. And while May’s council minutes are available on the Lisburn City Council website, albeit misclassified under the Economic Development committee, no minutes from the full monthly council meetings in March or April are available.

Not terribly accountable, and not very transparent.

Update – Mark (previously of this parish) points to the Northern Ireland Code of Local Government Conduct.

Part 2 / Section 22. If you have a pecuniary, or private or personal non-pecuniary, interest in a matter being considered by your council, you should exclude yourself from discussions and decisions on that matter (see also Part 3 of the code).

Part 3 / Section 27 You should also declare any significant private or personal non-pecuniary interest in a matter arising at a council meeting (including a committee or sub-committee meeting). An interest will be significant where you anticipate that a decision on the matter might reasonably be deemed to benefit or disadvantage yourself to a greater extent than other council constituents. Private or personal interest also extends to your membership of, or association with, any business, club, society, voluntary body or other organisation. [emphasis added]

Councillors who are members of the Orange Order stand to benefit in terms of a big party – and the right to march their sheep around the town – over their fellow councillors and some voters.

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  • andnowwhat

    Sounds like Nelsons got it right about the OO men voting.

    Put this with what had happened this last month and it is clear that the DUP and some other unionists are raising the stakes.

    Why?

  • Mister_Joe

    In the current situation that is simply a figurative two fingers to all of those who think that the law is there to be obeyed. The vast majority of people, I believe.
    *shakes head*

  • lamhdearg2

    £50,000, for what, better spent elsewhere.

  • The Lodger

    Mr Joe,

    The granting of the freedom of Lisburn to the Orange Order is a two fingers to people who believe that the law is there to be obeyed? How in God’s name did you manage to leap to that conclusion?

    One of the constant complaints about the OO is that they should stay in territory where they are wanted. Lisburn is a majority unionist city where they are very much wanted. Why should they not be granted the freedom of the city?

    They are a perfectly legitimate and legal organisation. The fact that a certain section of the community harbours a deep seated sectarian hatred of them is no reason to discriminate against the organisation.

    Reactions like yours merely demonstrate a complete inability to contemplate any tolerance for people who hold different views from your own.

  • Mister_Joe

    I totally refute your last paragraph.

  • The Lodger

    Mr Joe,

    That is your perogative. Perhaps you can point me towards some positive comments that you have made about unionists in general and the Orange Order in particular?

  • Mister_Joe

    Lodger,

    Perhaps the “has slugger..”thread might suffice. You will not find me making a negative comment ever about the OO as an organization, just comments that they should not march where they are clearly not appreciated. My comments are all there in the archives. You will find there my comments over the years that all of the Orangemen I knew, and was friends with, were, and are decent people.

  • RyanAdams

    Find myself nearly agreeing with Joe – the timing is a bit insensitive – however one has to look at record; given there has not been any contentious incidents in the Lisburn area involving the orange order – quite the opposite if one looks at how Crumlin was handled.

    On another note I wasn’t even aware Nelson was an independent? Anyone other councillors drop after the famous handshake?

  • Comrade Stalin

    On the question of timing, my charitable side speculates that the matter was probably tabled before recent events.

    When the Orange Order manages to find it within itself to insist and require that its members and hired bands conduct themselves respectfully in public, and if they show some capacity to sympathize with the concerns and fears of some residents in the neighbourhoods their marches pass through, I’d absolutely support a motion to grant them a symbolic title such as this.

  • sherdy

    Can we be surprised when bigots act like bigots?

  • Mister_Joe

    What’s that you say, Lodger? I can’t quite hear you.

  • HeinzGuderian

    *shakes head*

  • jagmaster

    Does Lisburn even have the right to confer Freedom of the City on anyone? I could be completely wrong and no doubt someone will put me right, but I seem to remember that when Lisburn was awarded city status it was more an honorary thing and that it could confer no additional powers, functions or funding.

  • kaiser

    Does Lisburn even have the right to confer Freedom of the City on anyone? I could be completely wrong and no doubt someone will put me right, but I seem to remember that when Lisburn was awarded city status it was more an honorary thing and that it could confer no additional powers, functions or funding.

    What a great honour to be given the freedom of that great city of Lisburn. Mrs Winsor will be so pleased. What next freedom of London,

  • HeinzGuderian

    ….freedom of Dungiven ? 😉

  • derrydave

    How utterly depressing 🙁
    Think I’m gonna take a break from Slugger and try to forget the backward little hole that is Northern Ireland for a few weeks. This shit is just beyond comment.

  • ken

    A short time ago Given was following Sammy Wilson around the town centre looking at the dozens of shops closed by the high rates. His answer? Levy the shopkeepers with £50,000 to give the LOL Freedom of the City. This is to buy the DUP votes just as the Hunger Strike Museum at the Maze, gifted byy Peter and Martin gets under way. Now they are trying to say “look we really are unionists”. The LOL would be fools to accept this mess of pottage for their betrayal by the DUP chiefs.

  • keano10

    On the upside, this will undoubtedly hinder future investement in the wonderful ‘City’ of Lisburn as it positively revels in it’s overtly sectarian persona.

    You reap what you sow Lisburn…

  • kaiser – As a borough, Lisburn awarded the freedom of the borough on people. And as a city, they do the same. Long tradition of it.

  • tacapall

    Why are Unionist politicians even proposing the Orange Order be given the freedom of the city, sure they already have the freedom to do what they like as has already be proved in Belfast city.

  • SDLP supporter

    I note with some embarrassment that none of the three Lisburn SDLP councillors (Catney, Drake, Heading) was present at the recent monthly meeting. Maybe they all have a good excuse but if they don’t, it is incumbent on the SDLP leadership to give them, individually or collectively, a good hard boot up the arse and ensure that a situation where no SDLP councillor is present never happens again. Attendance at monthly Council meetings is the primary and basic duty of any councillor.

  • It’s all part of the Lisburn Council’s master plan to make Lisburn the shining city now that Belfast has been irreparably breached by the Shinners.

    What with more people shipping out of Belfast and moving to Lisburn , the boundary changes, the Citadel on the weir, all in all the plan is going progressing.

    The problem is that DUP Belfast is top dog. Sometimes Lisburn win ( in little things they can control such as statues and freedom of the city), sometimes they lose big time ( as in football stadia and John Lewis etc), and sometimes they graciously accept gift wrapped expediency (the Agricultural show, and the Maze). Rumour has it that a real inept has been lined up to chair the Maze.

    This latest wheeze neatly coincides, albeit accidentally, with the latest OO outreach outside St Pat’s. What bliss.

  • kaiser

    Alan in Belfast (profile) 29 August 2012 at 8:48 am
    kaiser – As a borough, Lisburn awarded the freedom of the borough on people. And as a city, they do the same. Long tradition of it.

    Alan, CIty for everyone? Pretty divisive if you ask me, have a look at Dunmurry village, could use a 50 grand facelift,

  • BluesJazz

    SDLP supporter

    Brian Heading was there, in fact he’s just posted on Facebook a damning reguke to his 2 colleagues for not turning up, claiming it ‘was a gross dereliction of political duty or political cowardice not worthy of the SDLP’
    Ouch!

  • Oops forgot to say what an excellent piece of reportage.

  • SDLP supporter

    BluesJazz

    Thanks for the clarification. Knowing and admiring Brian Heading as I do, I had been disappointed he was reported as being absent. He’s the only SDLP Lisburn councillor you ever hear from and the only one who has anything interesting to say.

    I had been relying on the Radio Ulster report this morning and the claim by a Lisburn Sinn Fein councillor. Serves me right for not running a truth check on anything a member a member of that party says.

    Subject to the reservation I mentioned, the other representatives should be made accountable for their actions and brought to book if at fault.

  • commonsenseunionist

    Lets face it folks. The Orange Order is a rather secterian organization. If we as unionists wish to remain in the UK longterm we need to persuade a number of the for want of a better word Catholic community, that it is in their interests to remain in the UK. If we dont we may eventually loose our place in the UK. The OO is alien to catholics as, apart from anything else they cannot join. Unionists need to in NI terms ” play with their head” in other words do things and act in a way which will cement the union and bring our fellow countrymen on board. The current strategy adopted by some unionist politicians would only work where the margins were 80% unionist 20% nationalist not closer to 50/50

  • HeinzGuderian

    A simple glance South,is enough to persuade anybody where their best interests lie !!

  • BluesJazz – If Brian Heading was there then apologies for misreporting his absence. However, I didn’t see him enter, leave, or vote. And there’s nothing on his Facebook page this morning mentioning “a damning reguke to his 2 colleagues for not turning up” …

  • kaiser

    It’s in the Irish news no SDLP attended or voted

  • The Lodger

    “On the upside, this will undoubtedly hinder future investement in the wonderful ‘City’ of Lisburn as it positively revels in it’s overtly sectarian persona.”

    Keano,

    You mean that Sean Quinn won’t be investing in Lisburn after all?

  • Mister_Joe

    A council can do anything it wants within its legal remit if a majority agree. If the voters don’t like it, they just have to wait a short while (normally).

  • BluesJazz

    Alan in Belfast

    Looks like it was a fake facebook post. Henry McDonald commented on it. Brian Heading apologised he couldn’t have been there.
    As to the source of the fake posting, anyone’s guess.

  • lamhdearg2

    The DUP have withdrawn a motion to give the freedom of Lisburn to the Orange Order.

    nice timing.