Orlando massacre ‘beyond shocking’ - Jeffrey Dudgeon

Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the LGBT Center of Central Florida, center, is comforted by Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, right, after the murder of 50 people at a nightclub in Orlando

Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the LGBT Center of Central Florida, center, is comforted by Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, right, after the murder of 50 people at a nightclub in Orlando

UUP councillor and gay rights activist Jeffrey Dudgeon is to open up a book of condolence at Belfast City Hall after the massacre of 50 people at a gay night club in Florida.

US president Barack Obama said the worst shooting in American’s recent history was an “act of terror” and an “act of hate”.

“This is beyond shocking,” Mr Dudgeon told the News Letter. “I turned on the news to hear there were fifty dead.

“It took me apart, the thought of so many people, so much suffering, so much needless death.

“It is hard to know how people could be so full of hate, but we know that people like this exist.”

It is an obvious attack of the gay community, which we will now have to stand together in grief in a way that says something meaningful to the world, he said. “It is not extremely unexpected. The zealots and fanatics who exact a revenge on that community have done so for many centuries.”

The Belfast City Councillor will be opening a book of condolence at City Hall.

“We will have to observe fifty funerals - that is not something people want to see - and they will probably be mostly young people.”

Northern Ireland has “familiarity with multiple killings”, he said. Two gay men have been murdered in Belfast previously - Rev David Templeton and Const Darren Bradshaw, he added.

John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project said: “Our deepest condolences are with the friends and family of the victims of this terrible atrocity. An attack like this is devastating at any time, but for it to occur during US Pride Month is a stark reminder of the need to tackle prejudice and hatred against the LGBT community.

“We will be opening a book of condolence in our offices in Belfast and Foyle for people to send their messages of support.”

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said his thoughts would be with the victims and survivors of the Orlando attack and their families.

Many people from Northern Ireland will be familiar with Orlando, he said.

“This was more than just an attack on the individuals but an attack on the values of an open, liberal, and diverse society,” the MLA said.

“It is a reminder that around the world that many people continue to attacked or persecuted for their sexual orientation.

“It is vital that this attack is now properly investigated. Whatever the warped motivation of the suspect, it is important that one manifestation of prejudice does not lead to a different form of prejudice based on religion becoming reinforced.”

Another openly gay Belfast City Councillor said she was “shocked and horrified at the slaughter”.

Sinn Fein’s Mary Ellen Campbell said: “My thoughts and prayers are with the relatives of those killed and injured.

“This atrocity has not only stunned America, it has stunned the world.

“This attack on a group of people enjoying a Pride event is an attack on the progress that the LGBT community globally have made in the struggle for human dignity and respect.

“The world needs to show its support for the LGBT community at this time.

“I will be encouraging the people of Belfast to demonstrate their support for the families and friends of those killed and injured in the attack and have asked that a book of condolence be opened at Belfast City Hall.”