Unionists on ABC Council have claimed only four councillors showed an interest in attending Pride in Belfast, blaming the cost of sending them for not backing the event as a corporate body.
The decision by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council not to take part in this year’s event was branded ‘disappointing’ by Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance.
Sinn Fein Cllr Paul Duffy pointed out the council in June successfully passed a motion to participate in this parade but claimed unionist councillors ‘overturned the motion due to the cost involved - a mere £500 to £850’.
“ABC serves a diverse community including those from the LGBT community. They too pay rates. The fact unionist Cllrs came to vote this proposal down is depressing.”
Alliance councillor Eóin Tennyson has said ‘you cannot put a price on equality and acceptance’. “This would have been a small, but incredibly significant gesture of support for the LGBTQ+ community in our borough but particularly for LGBT members of staff within the Council. It is particularly disappointing that the Ulster Unionists chose to vote this way, despite their leader Robin Swann stating just last month that their party would not stand for intolerance,” he added.
SDLP Cllr Joe Nelson said: “It is another step to Ballygobackwards. This issue transcends our political divisions and it is a slap in the face for those LGBTQ people either nationalist or unionist.”
DUP Group Leader Mark Baxter said: “The original motion was debated and despite our objections to lighting of the buildings and flying of the flag, the motion received a majority in the council chamber. The part of the motion referring to the Council being represented at the parade was for exploration by officials with a report brought back to Monday evening’s full council meeting. Based on low interest in council with only four out of 41 Councillors expressing any interest in attending, this was not seen as value for money.”
Ulster Unionist Cllr Louise McKinstry said: “The motion passed in the June meeting has not been overthrown. The motion has and will be carried out to the letter. The possibility of attending was explored and there seemed no appetite to attend as a corporate body. The civic building will still light up in rainbow colours and the flag will fly on the designated day. This decision does not preclude members from attending.”