Council row on spend for good relations cash

A £500,000 budget for Good Relations caused political party disparity as to how it is spent by the new Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

Though the cash is to build good relations among the people of the borough, those in charge argued as to how it should be spent.

There were two options on the table as to how the money should be spent.

One option involved the exploration of Northern Ireland’s history which would include study trips to Belfast and Corrymeela and to the Rainbow Project.

This option was backed by Sinn Fein and the SDLP, with SDLP Councillor Joe Nelson supportive of option one as he felt it was important to show support for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

However, DUP Councillor Carla Lockhart dismissed this option.

She voiced her concern at the attitude that what had worked in the legacy council (Armagh City and District) would automatically work in the Craigavon and Banbridge areas.

Concern was expressed at the lack of information on Option two by some councillors.

However, Councillor Lockhart said the study trip to Corrymeela Community Centre would be very relevant to the issues being faced by young people today, rather than continuously looking back to the province’s troubled past.

She proposed that Option Two of the ‘Walk in My Shoes’ project be adopted.

Sinn Fein Councillor Brendan Curran said that it would be great if programmes did not have to focus on the past, but given recent events in North Lurgan (a bomb alert at the railway line, followed by rioting and shooting at police), which he fully condemned, it was important for young people to learn about the risks and dangers of their actions.

In his opinion, recent events had only proven the need for young people to be educated in that way.

Sinn Fein’s proposal for Option was voted on with 17 voting for and 18 voting against.

Cllr Lockhart’s proposal for Option Two was voted on with 26 voting for, eight voting against and one abstention.