Antrim and Newtownabbey Centenary Charter approved after SDLP challenge rejected

SDLP Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council group leader Councillor Roisin Lynch has said she is “deeply disappointed that efforts by the SDLP to reform the council’s Centenary Charter, to make it more inclusive, was rejected by unionist parties”.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 12:51 pm

Councillor Lynch added that the SDLP will “continue to engage positively and respectively but a true reflection of our complex shared history would require a step change from unionist parties”.

In a statement, she continued: “At Monday’s council meeting, the Mayor of our borough brought forward a Centenary Charter that was unreflective of our shared history and the diversity of our borough.

“It was essentially a proclamation of unionism, a celebration of partition and that was not something the SDLP could endorse.

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“We did not reject it out of hand and we stretched ourselves to bring forward proposals that sought to amend the charter, making it more inclusive and reflective of our complex history.

“We also wanted to give the council, and leaders from all parties the opportunity to recommit to the Good Friday Agreement and the rights of people on this island to determine our own future. This was unfortunately, rejected, by the unionist majority on our council.”

“The SDLP will continue to engage in a constructive and positive manner. We sincerely recognise the importance of Northern Ireland to our unionist friends and neighbours, but a Centenary Charter that doesn’t reflect our diversity and breadth of opinion isn’t worth having.

“SDLP councillors in Antrim and Newtownabbey will continue to engage respectfully, but there needs to be a step change from political unionism in our council before we make any real progress.”

SDLP Cllr Roisin Lynch

The creation of a charter was proposed by council’s Northern Ireland Centenary Working Group.

It was recommended that the charter is approved by the authority and placed on permanent display at Mossley Mill and Antrim Civic Centre.

The Mayor will be expected to commit to the charter on behalf of the council.

Proposing an amendment, Cllr Lynch said that she could not support the charter wording as it “currently stands”.

Cllr Lynch said that she wanted to add in phrases including “cherish all people”, “difference and diversity” and “further promote reconciliation of our communities” asking for a “commitment to a shared future for all who live here” for the next 100 years.

Cllr Lynch was also seeking a comment to “uphold peace and prosperity” contained in the Good Friday Agreement and consent that the “future of Northern Ireland will be determined by those who live here”.

Glengormley Ulster Unionist councillor Alderman Mark Cosgrove said that he wanted to move the original wording which had been drawn up by the Centenary Working Group and officers.

“I am very proud of Northern Ireland and its centenary. I see no reason to amend any of it.”

His amendment was supported by 24 councillors with eight against and seven abstentions.

Alliance Councillor Billy Webb said it would have been “useful to have had a bit more time” and to have had “something that would have been agreed before it was brought into the chamber” and could have had a “a bit more work done on it if there had been a bit more time given”.

Cllr Lynch said that the SDLP would be voting against the original motion.

Twenty-three councillors voted in favour with nine against and seven abstentions.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Click here to read: Centenary commemoration programme launched across Antrim and Newtownabbey

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