A ROW over comments made by a Ballymena DUP councillor when he had previously linked coronavirus being a ‘judgment from God’ with same sex marriage and changes to abortion laws rumbles on.
The original comments in March by Alderman John Carson made world-wide headlines but controversy continues to flare.
It had also bubbled to the surface at last month’s Council meeting.
Ballymena Alliance councillor Patricia O’Lynn, who was speaking via an online video link at a council meeting in Ballymena on Monday evening, was commenting as minutes of last month’s meeting were being adopted.
She told this evening’s meeting she would “like to query an issue of accuracy in terms of a recording in the meeting”.
She said it was in relation to a comment made by Alderman Carson at the June meeting.
Cllr O’Lynn said: “I think given the severity of the accusation” that was made that it needed to be recorded in the Council minutes.
The Mayor, Cllr Peter Johnston (DUP) – who was chairing the meeting – said he was aware Councillor O’Lynn had sent in an email on the issue but he said it had not been received in time in line with Council Standing Orders.
He said that meant he was not taking any “comments or points” on Minutes unless they had been submitted within the appropriate timeframe.
Councillor O’Lynn said it was important that there was a consistent application of the rules.
Bannside TUV councillor Timothy Gaston thought anyone wishing to raise an issue of accuracy of a minute should be heard at the meeting.
However, the Mayor said in line with Standing Orders he was moving on with the meeting.
At the June monthly meeting of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, a number of councillors had praised council initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Alderman Carson, who was in the council chamber, had said “one of the lessons that I have seen through all this was the community spirit”.
That prompted Ballymena Alliance councillor Patricia O’Lynn, speaking via a ‘Zoom’ link remotely because of pandemic lockdown measures, to say she was “absolutely delighted to hear Alderman Carson say that lessons had been learned from this crisis”
She added: “I would just like to reiterate that coronavirus did not discriminate amongst gender, race, religion or sexual lines and I hope that he is taking this opportunity to reflect on his comments made about attributing blame to certain members of our community.
“These people maybe didn’t need food packages distributed to them but they do need us, like everybody has been saying, to stick together and to act like a community and I hope, going forward, that he takes that under this notice and continues to operate in a way conducive to Mid & East Antrim Borough Council standards like the rest of us do.”
In response, Alderman Carson had told the June meeting “I am going to take no lessons from anyone that supports the murder of the unborn child and I want to make that very, very, clear.
“I make no apology for what I said, I stand over what I said, but the media blew the whole thing out of proportion and took a statement that I said and made it out that I said something which I didn’t say.
“I have challenged people if they want to do anything about it, take it further. And if Cllr O’Lynn thinks that I have done anything wrong, said anything wrong, there are channels open for her to take whatever action she wants rather than to attack me in a childish and a foolish and…well I could call her a Johnny-come-lately.
“I have been too long in the game to take lessons from someone that supports the murder of an unborn child”.
A short time after finishing his contribution Alderman Carson could be heard in the background – the meeting was livestreamed to the public on Facebook due to the lockdown – making remarks although they were inaudible on the video.
In June, Councillor O’Lynn subsequently took to social media and posted the following: ‘This evening I challenged Alderman Carson on inappropriate comments he made earlier in the pandemic.
‘Carson blamed ethnic minority groups for coronavirus by insinuating Covid19 was a result of “God’s judgment” for the legalisation of female reproductive healthcare and equal marriage.’
Cllr O’Lynn later edited the post saying she had incorrectly inserted the word ‘ethnic’ and removed it.
Her post continued: ‘He apologised on the 2nd of April for his comments, then rescinded that apology this evening by stating he did nothing wrong.
‘Carson responded by shouting that I was a disgrace before proceeding to verbally attack 2 of my female colleagues in the chamber. Ironically he accused me of being a bully by targeting him.
‘This commentary and behaviour has no place in society and Carson’s views are unreflective of constituents across the borough.’
At the start of April when the comments came to wider public attention there was a media frenzy over Alderman Carson’s remarks.
He was embroiled in controversy after claiming the coronavirus pandemic was a “judgment from God”.
The BBC Radio Ulster Nolan Show said the councillor told them: “Coronavirus is a judgment from God, and that is opinion.”
Original comments were made on John Carson’s Facebook page in which his profile picture had a DUP logo and which told people to stay at home because of coronavirus.
Stephen Nolan had said on Twitter the councillor told one of his team he wouldn’t be appearing on the show to “have Stephen Nolan or any other reprobate make a fool of me”.
In a post on Facebook the councillor had originally said: ‘With all the focus being on coronavirus it has went relatively unnoticed that from today abortion is available on demand up to 24 weeks.
‘I said when abortion was legalised that our nation would be judged by God because of its departure from his word and the legalisation of the murder of the unborn child as well as same sex marriage.
‘I was laughed at and mocked by some but as l said at the time they laughed at Noah until the rain started.
‘You reap what you sow and our nation is now reaping the judgment of God because of an immoral and corrupt government.
‘It is time to repent and turn again to the God of our Fathers.’
At the time the DUP, in a statement to the Nolan Show, said John Carson was expressing a personal opinion and not that of the party.
“This is a global pandemic, our focus is on protecting lives in Northern Ireland,” they said.
A Council spokesperson told ‘Ballymena Daily’ at the time: “These views do not reflect the values, culture or ethos of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.”
After the Nolan Show discussed the controversy Alderman Carson continued to engage with people by making comments on his Facebook post.
Within a short time, Alderman Carson had taken to Facebook again to say the following: ‘l would not intentionally set out to cause hurt or offence to anyone and if l did then for that l humbly apologise.’
His Facebook page said: ‘Folks yesterday afternoon l put a post on Facebook which was taken by some and totally misinterpreted.
‘Anyone who knows me will know that l would not intentionally set out to cause hurt or offence to anyone and if l did then for that l humbly apologise.
‘However, l will never apologise for my Christian faith and will not be silenced by those that are opposed to the truth of GOD’S word.’
Previously, a former DUP Ballymena councillor said the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 was God’s punishment of the city’s gay community.