New council should bring a new start

It was the beginning of the end of Craigavon Borough Council on Monday night, with the last council meeting played out in the existing debating chamber. Renovations begin after Christmas so that it will accommodate the 41 members of the new ABC Council, as distinct from the current 26 of Craigavon.

The remaining Craigavon meetings will be held downstairs in the Lakeview Suite, with the new order taking over on April 1, April Fools’ Day, and let’s not follow that line of inquiry! But let’s hope there are wiser debates than those that pertained on Monday night.

The main bones of contention were the naming of the attractive little park at West Street (Prince George Park is the proposal) which contains the spectacular ‘apple’ sculptures created by the talented Maurice Harron from County Donegal. And not forgetting the ‘Bert and Ernie’ cake saga, which has landed the Belfast Bakery of Ashers in hot water with the gay community and with the NI Equalities Commission. A set-up if ever there was one, but more of that later.

First the mini-park, and Alderman Gladys McCullough, the main advocate of the ‘Prince George’ label will, no doubt, have stern words with the council officers. They failed to inform her that the land is, in fact, owned by the Department of Development (the DRD) who will have to concur with the name. It’s another manifestation of the fact that officers seem to be running the show these days, often to the exclusion of council members.

But Mrs McCullough is a determined lady and it’s a fair bet that the name will end up as ‘Prince George’. It all descended into farce when Sinn Fein called for public consultation, claiming that the people of Maralin wanted no truck with ‘The Ducks of Maralin’. Quite. But it doesn’t take a fortune teller to predict that West Street-Edgarstown won’t lodge many objections to ‘George’.

And so to The Cake, and most Northern Ireland people – of whatever religious or political persuasion – must be sick and tired hearing about it. If gay people want same-sex marriage, well, the State should not act as moralists and deny it. But it’s questionable whether this is the right way of seeking their goals.

They are totally justified in seeking their rights, but they are dancing on the rights of others. It isn’t the first time that they have sought out a soft touch to vent their aggression. They knew that Ashers, given their Christian ethos, could not in all conscience bake that cake. And that gave the zealots the opportunity to bring in the NIEC to bully devout Christians through the courts and beat their chests after a perceived ‘victory’.

Not for them the fairness of going to an alternative bakery to create an edible ‘Bert and Ernie’, if indeed they ever wanted the cake in the first place. Better to put those darned Christians on the spot and humiliate them. It’s sheer hypocrisy, and rather than the NIEC dropping the case, the gay community should forget about it and adopt the principles of live and let live. The same principles that they crave, but would deny others.