A DUP MLA has called for a probe into seven community groups which had objected to a religious service at the People’s Park.
The demand by Alderman Sydney Anderson came after an exchange on the shared space project for the park during Monday night’s Craigavon Borough Council meeting.
Mr Anderson pointed out that the seven groups had voiced their opposition to the Orange Order’s planned religious service in the park in June.
Councillors voted narrowly to allow the service to go ahead, but there was a protracted legal process by residents in an attempt to stop it.
However Portadown District LOL No 1 dramatically withdrew their application for the service at the last minute claiming they had “sustained verbal threats” adding that the notion that the park would ever be a shared space was “absurd”.
Mr Anderson accused the community groups of “being against the unionist people in Portadown” and asked the council to look at their constitutions to “see if they are discriminating against people in Portadown”.
“The community groups have signed against the Protestant unionist community in Portadown. They can’t cherry pick,” said Mr Anderson.
Sinn Fein councillor Johnny McGibbon pointed out that the organisers of the service had withdrawn the application. “This is a very dangerous course of action,” he said.
DUP councillor Carla Lockhart suggested the matter should be brought back to committee, to look at the constitutions of community groups right across the board, and this was agreed by the council.
A representative of one of the community groups said the seven groups in question are engaged in cross-community work, particularly with elderly and young people.
She pointed out that in their original letter of objection to the service, they had suggested an alternative religious service for the park, embracing all religious denominations, which would have been more “inclusive and all-embracing”.
Another councillor, who did not wish to be named, said, “That train has already left the station. A lot of money has been committed and the plans are at an advanced stage.”
Kenneth Twyble, chairman of the project’s steering group, said a planning application was due to be submitted within the next two weeks, work would go out to tender in November and machinery should be on site by January or February.
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