Sinn Fein blocks illumination of Belfast City Hall tonight to mark the Northern Ireland Centenary

Sinn Fein has blocked the illumination of Belfast City Hall tonight to mark the Centenary of Northern Ireland.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 2:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:18 pm

The illumination had been supported by unionists, the Alliance Party and the Green Party, said DUP Alderman Brian Kingston.

“Once again Sinn Fein, who like to lecture others about tolerance and respect, show no respect for the Unionist identity nor the democratic wishes of the Council or the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Lighting City Hall for the Centenary was supported by a majority of the City Council and the DUP will be raising this matter at Council Committee tomorrow morning.”

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Councillors had voted in favour of lighting up Belfast City Hall tonight to mark the Northern Ireland Centenary. Photograph by Declan Roughan / Presseye

He has spoken to the council solicitor today.

“The decision had been brought late to the party groups leaders and we had already committed to lighting up City Hall this Friday 22 for the 40th anniversary of Jeff  Dudgeon’s successful legal challenge [against the criminalisation of homosexuality].

“I then consulted with other party leaders to get agreement that we should have City Hall lit up for centenary, and the nearest available date was this evening, Thursday 21 October.

“There was majority support amongst the councillors for that. So that was approved yesterday. But Sinn Fein have now called in the decision on procedural grounds so City Hall will not be lit up this evening.”

He is raising the matter at the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on Friday morning. He said that Sinn Fein has objected on procedural grounds, because the decision was reached by email to party group leaders.

“But that is not unusual for urgent decisions, that they would consult with party group leaders [by email] and work out the arithmetic of the party group strengths. So instead it is going to have to go to committee tomorrow, whether or not it might then have to go to council to be ratified.

“But I am disgusted by this, it is pathetic that they are blocking this even though it has majority support of the council.”

A ‘call-in’ in a procedure that can be used by any party to challenge a council decision either on procedural grounds or community impact, he explained.

“So I think on this occasion Sinn Fein has tried it on both grounds. Once again it is just Sinn Fein showing that while they lecture others about tolerance and respect, through the centenary year of Northern Ireland they have shown no respect for the unionist tradition throughout Northern Ireland.”

He noted that Sinn Fein also blocked the planting of a centenary rose and a centenary monument stone at Stormont.

“And also they have prevented the lighting up of Stormont on Friday for the centenary and at least four other councils. But we will keep pushing for this to be done at the nearest available date.”

He said the Alliance Party and Green Party and unionist parties have all supported lighting up City Hall as part of a programme to mark the centenary.

“It just shows that their [Sinn Fein’s] idea of an agreed united Ireland is one in which there are no unionists. They show no respect for the unionist tradition. It demonstrates why there will not be an agreed united Ireland.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The decision to illuminate City Hall was subject to a call-in this morning.  An initial legal opinion indicates the call in has merit.  As a result of this, the illuminate will not be proceeding.”

Sinn Fein has been invited to respond.

This story will be updated.

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