A BID to have a LGBT rainbow flag fly at The Braid council headquarters in Ballymena has failed amidst a war of words.
A motion by the Alliance Party was defeated by 28 votes to ten votes in The Braid on Monday night.
The 40-member council saw all 15 DUP and all seven Ulster Unionist Party councillors – including Coast Road-based Mayor Maureen Morrow – reject the proposal.
They were joined by the four TUV councillors present and two Independents – James Henry and Rodney Quigley.
Voting for the motion were the seven Alliance councillors, Eugene Reid of the SDLP, Ian Friary of Sinn Fein and Independent councillor Bobby Hadden.
Two councillors – the TUV’s Timothy Gaston and James McKeown (SF) were not present.
The Notice of Motion proposed by Larne Lough Alliance councillor Danny Donnelly, seconded by his party colleague Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna (Coast Road), read: ‘This Council recognises the contribution made to our Borough by LGBTQ+ citizens and rejects all forms of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
‘To show our support for equality and acceptance this Council will fly the rainbow flag at Carrickfergus Town Hall, Smiley Buildings in Larne and the Braid building in Ballymena to mark the occasion of Pride in 2020.”
Carrick Castle Alliance councillor Lauren Gray explained recently that the party had failed in a bid to even get the motion on the agenda in the summer in a bid to have the flag flying to mark this year’s first ever Larne Pride Festival which was held on August 17.
She said on social media in July: ‘Sadly due to a 2 motion rule at #MEA Council, & the DUP unable to give up a slot, @allianceparty was unable to propose the pride flag fly to mark the Larne event this summer. I’m assuming the jeers that met us expressing disappointment where linked to procedures & not the issue’.
After last night’s Council vote, Larne Pride Festival said on Facebook: ‘Tonight it was presented to council that next year , Larne borough show support for Larne pride by flying the rainbow flag!
‘This was voted against 28 votes to 10!
‘All 28 votes against was DUP UUP and TUV including local mayor who voted against and also refused invite to East Antrim’s first pride!
‘Larne pride from the beginning came about to help support the lgbtq community in Larne, and show our youth and next generation there’s a place for everyone in this town!!
‘It’s our hope it will help mental health massively especially amongst lgbtq people, so no more lives would be ruined nor lost!!
‘As disappointing as it may be, it’s only one flag on one building, when we had hundreds of rainbow flags in supporting us this year the full length of the Main Street. Next year we know there will be hundreds more !!
‘To everyone who voted no, thank you for keeping our cause alive, making it stronger and fuelling our drive and motivation. With out you we wouldn’t need pride!!!
‘We can now promise you all 2020 will be HUGE!!!’
Danny Donnelly also took to social media saying: ‘Mentioned by TUV Cllrs discussing a motion to fly the rainbow flag in support the next Pride event in MEA – marriage equality, abortion reform, Trojan horse, Pan-nationalist front, @EmmetMcDB & Ashers. Not mentioned – equality, tolerance, inclusivity or respect for diversity’.
On Tuesday the TUV issued copies of comments made by two of their councillors – Matthew Armstrong (Ballymena) and Christopher Jamieson (Braid) at the council meeting.
The statement said: ‘TUV councillors Matthew Armstrong and Christopher Jamieson articulated why the party opposed an Alliance proposal to fly the Rainbow Flag from ratepayer funded council buildings at a meeting last night.
‘The proposal was defeated 28 votes to 10.
‘Councillor Armstrong said: ‘Madam mayor, Whilst it is in the gift of any political party to bring a motion before this council, perhaps we should first reflect on the hypocrisy of Alliance who have spent the entire summer bemoaning the erection of flags and emblems. Their own Emmett McDonnagh Brown declared that flags were solely used to demarcate territory!
‘If indeed this Town Hall is the territory that they themselves now wish to demarcate it will not be in my name or that of my party.
‘The LGBT movement’s chief aim is to enact a change in the law, to legalise same sex marriage. That issue divides opinion in our Province and our Borough.
‘Why should our Borough’s buildings be marked by a flag which is as divisive as any other that Alliance would care to mention and which represents an opinion which is incompatible with the views of many of our areas citizens?
‘I am ever mindful that each of us owe it to the people who sent us to this place to represent their views. My chief aim, as I promised at the election, is to fight their corner at every juncture.
‘This is one such juncture and whilst I recognise that this issue may be deemed sensitive, it makes it nonetheless less important to speak on.
‘My views and the views of TUV voters cannot and will not go unheard. Alliance may enjoy running roughshod over the opinions of others in other councils but I would like to think that Mid and East Antrim is different.
‘Now let’s talk about these buzzwords ‘equality’ and ‘rights’ that are so often used to attack anyone who dares to speak out against this radical agenda.
‘I ask this unholy alliance where is the equality for the unborn? Is it not hypocritical that those who won’t stand for the right to life for the unborn try to lecture us at every turn?
‘When the Alliance align themselves with Sinn Fein it takes their hypocrisy to the next level. It was unsurprising to read the comments of the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens just weeks ago when he lauded the supposed gallantry of Tom McIlwee who was of course convicted in relation to the fire bomb murder of 27 year old Yvonne Dunlop in a shop on this very street in 1976.
‘This very street. Think about that members .
‘Does that sound like equality or rights? Does it stand out as accepting?
‘It sounds more like the Trojan Horse has picked up a few more passengers.
‘What then of the movement that brings forward this motion? It is a political ideology that does not tolerate dissent. That expects all in its wake to fall into line. That slaps down anyone who dares to speak against it.
‘We will be portrayed as backward, as bigots, as extremists, when the truth is quite different.
‘We should spend more time remembering the God fearing, hard working people – the same people who the pan nationalist front would be happy to chastise – who were the very same people who made this Northern Ireland, this United Kingdom the great place that it is.
‘Take no comfort that the rainbow flag and same sex marriage are symbols of the LGBT movement.
‘Take comfort instead from the fact that God ordained marriage between one man and one woman, and that God made the first rainbow as a promise to all.
‘I robustly oppose this motion, as do my colleagues on the TUV benches, and will unapologetically vote against it’.
Councillor Jamieson said: ‘Madam Mayor, My colleague Councillor Armstrong has already commented on this but it is such a glaring issue I cannot allow it to pass and that is the supreme irony of Alliance brining forward a motion proposing that flags be flown.
‘This is the party which concerns itself with the alleged offence caused by flying the flag of our country so much so that they are the first to complain about it.
‘This is the party which facilitated the Sinn Fein demand to remove the Union Flag on all but a handful of days from Belfast City Hall leading to all the trouble that caused.
‘And here they are tonight bringing a divisive motion about flags into Mid and East Antrim Council.
‘This motion talks about grand ideas like rejecting discrimination. About equality. About acceptance.
‘Yet the irony is that the Rainbow Flag is a symbol which for many stands for discrimination, inequality and lack of acceptance.
‘Where was the equality when a family owned business was dragged before the courts for refusing to bake a cake carrying a message with which they fundamentally disagreed?
‘Where was the acceptance of people of religious faith when the demand of the LGBT lobby was bake the cake or else?
‘Where is the rejection of discrimination when the government seeks to force LGBT relationship education on schools against the wishes of parents?
‘You see, Madam Mayor, while I and my party reject all forms of discrimination the act of flying this flag from ratepayer funded buildings would be discrimination against those who refuse to sign up to everything that flag represents.
‘Just as a Muslim would be uncomfortable with a Christian symbol even for non-Christian philanthropy (which is why Muslim humanitarians organise under the Red Crescent and not the Red Cross) there are many people who would not be comfortable sharing a symbol that leads people away from Christ’s teaching on marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
‘The rainbow flag promotes not just pride in sexual behaviour but the desire to take action to legally silence or publicly shame those who would disagree with it.
‘That was the core issue with the Asher’s case. The response of those who disagree with the views I articulate here tonight will be to shout terms of abuse like bigot or that terms which is a catch all term of abuse of anyone who dares to dissent from the latest demand from the LGBT lobby – homophobic.
‘Well be that as it may as long as I am in this chamber a voice will be raised against proposals like this’.
The Ulster Unionist Party explained its decision to oppose the motion for the flying of the Pride flag at Mid and East Antrim Council buildings.
Speaking in the council chamber on Monday night, Cllr, Keith Turner said: “There is already a flag flown that gives recognition to the LGBTQ+ community, in fact that flag gives recognition to all people regardless of age, faith, colour or gender and that flag is the Union flag.
“It is an emblem to which people from all over the world flock to as a safe harbour against persecution.
“My problem with this motion is that if we were to acquiesce, then it sets a dangerous precedent for any other minority group to come forward and demand that their cause be advertised in exactly the same way.
“We in the Ulster Unionist Party believe in equal status for everyone, but we feel that this motion is pushing into the boundaries of special status which no group however large or small should be afforded.”