Nationalist council in second NI centenary snub: DUP delegation urges Equality Commission to take action

DUP MLA Gary Middleton. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEyeDUP MLA Gary Middleton. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
DUP MLA Gary Middleton. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
A second snub of the Northern Ireland centenary by a majority-nationalist council has prompted the DUP to seek action from the Equality Commission.

The party’s Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said the second decision by Derry City and Strabane District Council to opt out of participation in any event marking the 100 year anniversary of the creation of Northern Ireland “doubles down on disrespect”.

The council first voted at the end of October to opt out of supporting “any events that celebrates or commemorates the 100th anniversary of the partition of Ireland” — a decision which prompted a strong backlash from unionists.

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A group of 11 councillors sought to overturn that decision through a mechanism known as a call-in.

That resulted in the original motion coming back to the council at a meeting held on Thursday night, but the outcome was the same thanks to the votes of the SDLP, Sinn Fein and independent councillors.

Mr Middleton, the sole unionist MLA in the Foyle constituency, is to meet with the Equality Commission as part of a DUP delegation to urge them to take action.

“The decision last month to reject participation in any event marking the centenary of Northern Ireland was a blow to community relations within the Council area,” he said.

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“Instead of taking this second opportunity offered to them, some Parties and Councillors decided to double down on the disrespect displayed by the first decision.”

“A DUP delegation will meet with the Equality Commission in relation to this decision.

“There are clear and obvious impacts on both the equality and good relations, not least because the decision goes against the Council’s own Equality and Good Relations Strategies.”

The DUP MLA continued: “No-one is pretending that every citizen of the Londonderry and Strabane area is likely to celebrate the centenary of Northern Ireland, but if we are to build a shared future then allowing the opportunity to at least build a better knowledge and understanding of such a major event is the least we should expect.”

He added: “Each of the main parties have supported the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ approach yet now some are turning their back on that.”