Belfast DUP councillor: Israel-Palestine motions ‘turn our council into a debating club’

The top DUP councillor in Belfast has said that bringing motions on international affairs before council meetings has the effect of turning local government into “a debating society”.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 2:55 pm
An image of wrecked apartment blocks near a Gaza mosque, taken from BBC coverage

Brian Kingston was speaking as separate motions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were slated for debate in Belfast City Council tonight.

They are just two of several motions in a meeting beginning at 7pm, and it is thought they may not be voted on until midnight or later.

One has been put forward by People Before Profit asking for the council to request that the UK and Irish government expel Israeli diplomats.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Another is being moved by Sinn Fein, calling for the council to “write to the Local Government Pension Scheme to seek as part of its responsible investment strategy that it will begin the process of divesting from any Israeli state-owned company or private company involved in the occupation and the violation of Palestinian human rights”.

Councillor Kingston, DUP group leader and former Lord Mayor, said the two parties are “trying to out-do eachother in how anti-israeli they can be” and the DUP will reject both motions.

He added that “obviously we shared in the concern about the outbreak of hostilities and we welcome that there’s now a ceasefire and support all efforts to preserve the ceasefire and the peaceful co-existence between Israel and the Gaza Strip”.

“Unfortunately unionists have less than a third of the seats on council so it’ll come down to how the Alliance and Green Party will vote,” he said.

“They’re not going to change anything, substantially. You get these long debates on matters which, at the end of it, only amount to sending a letter to somebody [regarding] things which are beyond our powers.

“They’re actually Assembly matters, international matters, or Westminster matters. It [the council chamber] just becomes like a debating society.”

From May 10 to May 21 (when a ceasefire kicked in), at least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, were killed in Gaza, according to a BBC report, which attributes the figure to Gaza’s health ministry.

In Israel, 12 people, including two children, were killed, its medical service said, according to the same BBC report.

More from this reporter:

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe