The Ulster Unionists on Belfast City Council opted to avoid tonight’s ceremony honouring American politicians Bill Clinton and George Mitchell.
The party had also boycotted a vote the previous evening endorsing the decision to award the accolades to the two men for their involvement in the Good Friday Agreement, which was reached exactly 20 years ago today.
UUP councillor Jeff Dudgeon, representing the Balmoral area in the south of the city, said no-one from the party’s six-strong council contingent had gone to the event because “Trimble should’ve been offered the freedom at the same time, rather than just two Americans... it was the failure to invite Trimble was the central problem we had with it”.
Last week, the UUP group on the council issued a statement which said it wished Mr Clinton and Mr Mitchell well, but that it was David Trimble and John Hume “who did the heavy lifting in Northern Ireland which led to the Belfast Agreement”.
Whilst the Ulster Unionists steered clear, politicians from the pro-agreement SDLP and Alliance were joined at the ceremony by figures from the DUP, who had actively fought against it, as well as Sinn Fein members including former IRA bombers Caral ni Chuilin and Gerry Kelly.
Councillor Dudgeon (pictured) said given the DUP and Sinn Fein’s previous stances, there was “a bit of an irony” in their attendence yesterday.