Row over Belfast City Hall lighting

Row over Belfast City Hall lighting

Belfast City Hall will be illuminated to mark special events including St Patrick's Day and the Twelfth of July, but a row has erupted following a DUP motion proposing the building be lit up on the Queen's birthday.

The city council agreed that six times a year, a special system will be used to show the building in a different - and colourful - light.

But on Monday evening, DUP councillors put forward a motion for the lights to also shine on the Queen's birthday and Remembrance Day. The proposal failed after the Alliance Party abstained from voting.

Máire Hendron, the party's leader in the council, said she was "disappointed" at the controversy.

I think it was a very silly ploy. The [DUP] are very concerned about the process being applied when it suits them.

Máire Hendron

She explained to UTV that because the motion had not gone through equality screening, her party could not vote for it.

"If it's passed by equality screening and comes back to the council we will have no problem voting for the proposals," she said.

Mrs Hendron also criticised the DUP for raising the motion, and said the public "have every reason to be disgusted".

"They did not apply the process in this case and therefore we could not have agreed with it," she added.

But DUP councillor Christopher Stalford described Maire Hendron's refusal to back the motion as a "smokescreen to disguise the Alliance party's anti-unionist position".

"It's likely that it will take at least six months for that to go through the council's committee procedures again," he said.

"I think it's regrettable the Alliance party had an opportunity, after their disgraceful decision to remove the flag from city hall, to actually reach out to the unionist community."

The truth of the matter is that Maire Hendron and her colleagues have given the unionist community a massive two fingers.

Christopher Stalford

The illumination has been made possible by European funding, and it will bring Belfast into line with other cities which also employ the lighting system.

Sinn Féin's Jim McVeigh said it will be used to celebrate events in the city, and party politics should not have been brought into the decision.

"After 12 weeks of mayhem around the flag dispute, I think the last thing we need to do is light the city hall up green white and gold, or red white and blue," he said.

"We are happy to see the city hall lit up orange on the Twelfth of July - that's quite unusual for republicans - but we are also happy to see it being lit up on other festival occasions.

"It's unfortunate that other people have tried to politicise this issue when it should be a fun opportunity to support the festivals we have in this city," added Cllr McVeigh.


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