Another calculated insult to Catholic ratepayers in the Six Counties
Lisburn council's decision to erect a monument to the UDR in the middle of Lisburn town on council-owned property is just the latest in a long line of council decisions which will be viewed as a calculated insult by the council's nationalist and Catholic ratepayers.
This decision about the UDR follows other council decisions which are equally insulting to nationalists and Catholics – the flying of the Union Jack from council-owned premises all year round; the hosting of an annual dinner, now in its second year, in the council building for the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR), costing the ratepayers £5,000 a time; the refusal by the council to officially recognise the Irish language; the exclusion of Sinn Féin councillors from council positions their mandate entitles them to.
Lisburn's unionist councillors are also not averse to extending their discriminatory practices to other groups in society.
Several months ago they voted to exclude same sex partners from using a designated room inside the council building for civil partnership ceremonies.
This decision was challenged by a gay constituent using Section 75 of the 1998 Equality Act.
The Equality Commission informed the council that their decision to exclude was wrong and was in breach of equality provisions.
The council's solicitors advised the councillors they would lose the case in court on discrimination grounds and could individually face hefty legal bills. It was only at this point they backed down and reversed their decision. The legal advice cost the ratepayers of Lisburn £11,000.
Smarting over this humiliating defeat unionist councillors regrouped and continued their homophobic offensive.
They passed a motion at council meeting which they called a 'conscience clause' for council workers who object to staffing a civil partnership ceremony.
This is an attempt by the council to legitimise their homophobia and is blatantly encouraging and giving cover to any member of the council staff foolish enough to withdraw their labour.
The council is currently seeking legal advice about this decision; advice which will cost the ratepayers another tranche of several thousand pounds.
Unionist councillors on Lisburn Council will squander ratepayer's money and risk council worker's jobs rather than put their money where their mouth is.
The Local Government Auditor has been called in by Sinn Féin and is investigating the cost to the ratepayer of this legal advice.
Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler spends quite a bit of his time in correspondence with solicitors and the Equality Commission over decisions taken by the council.
Last week he organised a petition signed by 500 voters across the borough opposing the decision to erect the UDR memorial.
On foot of the petition Butler is demanding the council reverse its memorial decision or face a legal challenge.
Butler's campaign to eradicate sectarianism from Lisburn Council has seen him challenging many biased decisions against nationalists.
For more than 20 years the council has refused to build a play park for children in Poleglass. Disparity in allocating funds tells a similar story – £1,000 to the nationalist Colin Festival, £5,000 to the unionist-based Hillsborough Oyster Festival.
One-third of the population of Lisburn's council area are nationalists living in Twinbrook and Poleglass, yet official publications promoting the council's activities rarely carry photos of nationalists from these areas or their elected representatives.
Only once in 30 years has there been a nationalist-elected mayor of Lisburn.
The decision to erect a UDR memorial was taken in the full knowledge that many soldiers in this regiment, since it was set up in 1970, were involved in a murder campaign against the Catholic population.
A Sinn Féin pamphlet, published in 1989, claims more than 200 UDR men were convicted for their involvement in various sectarian offences.
Lisburn Catholic Liam McKee was killed by a UDR man who was also a member of the UDA. Other members of the UDR were members of this UDA squad which was responsible for killing several Catholics in the Lisburn area.
Reason enough you would have thought to let the UDR fade unnoticed with the RIR and B Specials into history.
But unionist councillors in Lisburn attach more importance to glorifying this sectarian regiment than treating their Catholic and nationalist constituents with the respect they are entitled to.
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