For a while it seemed the Ards and North Down Borough Council might have agreed to the proposal to light up the town hall in the recognisable rainbow colours in honour of all future Pride celebrations. The original motion was put forward by Alliance councillors Gavin Walker and Andrew Muir, and supported on the committee by six councillors. There was added hope when DUP councillor Tom Smith voted against his colleagues in favour of the motion.
However, at a council meeting last night to decide on the motion brought forward, the DUP voted it down by introducing an amendment which removed any reference to Pride or the queer community and made it a more general motion about lighting up the town hall for any occasion.
The breakdown of the vote went as such – the council consists of 40 seats, of them 18 are DUP. Despite Tom Smith once again voting against his colleagues, the other 17, supported by three non DUP party members, blocked the lighting of the town hall by a majority of 20 to 16. The other four councillors from the 40 were absent from the vote.
Councillor Andrew Muir, one of the people who originally brought forward the motion and who also served as the borough’s first openly gay mayor, posted to social media about the decision. He said: “Astounded that in 2018 DUP and others decided to block simple motion from (Gavin Walker) and I affirming that LGBT people be accepted and valued as equal citizens with Ards Town Hall lit up in rainbow colours one day a year.”
Speaking after the vote, Muir also said: “This is a real blow to all who believe true equality should not be this hard to achieve in 2018, especially after the recent words of support from Arlene Foster which have now proven to be very hollow.”
Astounded that in 2018 DUP and others decided to block simple motion from @gavinwalkerni and I at @ANDborough affirming that LGBT people be accepted & valued as equal citizens with Ards Town Hall lit up in Rainbow colours one day a year but words of Harvey Milk resonate loudly pic.twitter.com/M3IaoKhucG
— Andrew Muir (@AndrewMuirNI) September 26, 2018
He continued: “This motion was about to making a positive difference to the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across our borough, letting them know they are accepted and valued as equal citizens. But instead, those who moved to quash this motion tonight have sent a negative signal that Ards and North Down Council is not dedicated to working for all.”
The DUP have form on blocking civic buildings displaying support for the LGBT+ community. They recently used a ‘call in mechanism’ to stop the rainbow flag flying over public buildings during Pride.
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