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Council does its job and now moves on

By Staff Reporter

BELFAST City Council has emerged relatively unscathed from a week of bickering which brought back unfortunate memories of a Dome of Delight which in effect brought little joy to the populace.

As a majority in the Council accepted, young Lord Mayor Niall Ó Donnghaile made a mistake in declining to present an award to a member of the British army cadets – a rare but nonetheless unfortunate slip-up by a First Citizen who has made inclusion a leitmotif of his year in office.

That slight was made right by a fulsome apology from the Lord Mayor – an apology, interestingly, accepted by the cadet and her family and by some unionist members of Belfast City Council.

There was some surprise therefore when unionists insisted in moving ahead with an attempt to censure the Lord Mayor at a special meeting of Council on Monday night. After all, this issue was discussed at length and the Lord Mayor deservedly rapped over the knuckles at the monthly meeting of Council on Thursday past.

The suspicion must be that those who pushed for the special meeting and who feigned dissatisfaction at the Lord Mayor’s apology had another agenda – one which found voice in the flag-waving mob which gathered outside City Hall on Thursday and again on Monday.

The unionist move to perpetuate this division among councillors by a motion of censure was easily defeated and a line has now been drawn under this sorry episode.

But councillors from all parties would do well to pay special attention to the amendment, proposed by the Alliance Party and seconded by the SDLP, which was passed in City Hall in place of the unionist motion of censure because it contains good advice for future conduct of city affairs…

The Council reaffirms:

The importance of the Lord Mayor representing all the citizens of Belfast.

Our commitment to promote good relations which is about living and working together with understanding and respect without fear or mistrust.

Our commitment to promote a stable, tolerant, fair and inclusive society, where individuality is respected and diversity is celebrated, in an inclusive way.

Our commitment to improve the quality of life for everyone in the city by making Belfast a better place.

In the spirit of Christmas, let’s hope those sentiments are taken on board by councillors of all parties.

In the meantime, it is for Billy Hutchinson to explain why his most public and significant act as the new leader of the PUP was to side with the baying mob of thugs skulking behind Rangers scarves and union jacks behind City Hall.

He and his late colleague David Ervine rose to prominence in working class loyalist politics through their powerful and passionate denunciation of Big House unionist politics. The antics of the mob on Thursday and Monday were a throwback to the mass hysteria manufactured by unionist demagogues from a grim and sorry past.

Mr Hutchinson might have rung in his tenure as leader with a ringing denunciation of the economic, educational and health challenges which are plaguing his community, as they are working class communities across the city. But he opted for the tribal posturing of those he once condemned. That is unfortunate.

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