Nationalist councillors in Magherafelt have blocked a funding application by former UDR greenfinches as their planned historical talk is taking place in an Orange hall.
The veteran female soldiers – the first women in the UK military to perform front-line duties – are to host the lecture on the History of Militia since the 17th century, in the Aughagaskin premises near Magherafelt.
However, when the group applied for a modest £450 grant from the district council, the nationalist majority of councillors deemed the venue to lack the necessary “inclusivity” element for funding. At this week’s council meeting, Councillor Peter Bateson of Sinn Fein said a group of UDR soldiers meeting in an Orange Hall should not be aided with funding.
“I do not see in any way that this stands up to good relations criteria,” he said.
A SDLP amendment – proposing that the council writes to the organisers suggesting they amend their proposal – was adopted and passed by ten votes to three.
It is unclear if the veterans’ group will resubmit their application.
DUP councillor Paul McLean called the objections a “disgrace” and said they failed to reflect the Orange Order’s policy of opening its halls for wider community use.
“Whenever anything comes forward from the unionist perspective whatsoever, they [nationalist councillors] either reject it or they make an amendment that is suitable to them. This is a point that I have constantly been making in council and will continue to make,” he said.
“We are a minority grouping in Magherafelt. Sinn Fein are always promoting inclusiveness and transparency, but all that is is false words. Quite a number of the Orange halls have been opened up to different community events but this doesn’t seem to appease them,” Cllr McLean added.
Kenny Donaldson of the Innocent Victims United group said there are “ongoing efforts to denigrate the Ulster Defence Regiment”.
“Over 50,000 men and women served in its ranks and it is regarded as one of the most disciplined and restrained armies in western Europe – despite the intense provocation and risk to life that individual members came under, and in some cases continue to come under.”
Mr Donaldson said the decision was unacceptable and added: “It really illustrates the depth of hatred and intolerance present within those supposedly charged to deliver civic leadership”.
No one from Magherafelt council was available for comment yesterday.