Friday 5 July 2013

Response to controversial Lisburn City Mayoral Selection

Despite the political progress in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement, unfortunate reminders of the past resurface from time to time.

In the recent selection of Mayor for Lisburn City Council, it was disappointing to see that the main point discussed by our councillors, in essence, was the candidates view on the Northern Ireland border.

We expect the alternative candidate, Cllr Martin, would feel little pride in being considered for Mayor mostly on the basis that he is not a member of the DUP or Sinn Fein! Whilst we hope that councillors can resolve this issue amicably amongst themselves, we would like to offer a few notes of concern.

The first is that most of the pageantry and decoration around Lagan Valley’s towns, especially at this time of year, comes from one side of the community.

Since our retailers depend from trade emanating from the residents in the Republic of Ireland, especially in Sprucefield, surely we want a shared city.

Many residents of Lisburn City Council who live in areas such as Twinbrook and Poleglass feel closer to West Belfast – meaning Lisburn’s retailers lose their trade.

We are in favour of people celebrating their culture peacefully and respectfully. However when added to other recent measures such as renaming Ballymacoss playing fields as the ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ playing fields, huge pageants celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee and the ill-fated attempt to give the Orange Order the Freedom of the City, we have to ask ourselves some serious questions.

Are we doing all we can to make sure that Lisburn is an open and welcoming place for all our citizens? Are we diffusing very real and volatile tensions within our community? Have our councillors been good stewards of our city and worked for the benefit of all our people?

Many loyalists, after the flags protests, expressed disappointment that the people they had elected to represent them had not represented them properly.

Secondly, we are concerned that this Mayoral appointment does not bode well for the proposed merger of Lisburn City and Castlereagh Borough councils. It has already been dubbed a ‘unionist super-council’ by some and indeed it looks likely it will become a DUP held council. Due to the loss of Dunmurry Cross, it looks like a lot of nationalist seats will go too. Will this loss of representation and equilibrium allow the DUP to go ahead virtually unopposed with measures that the public do not support?

When will politics in Lagan Valley join the modern age, leaving single issue disputes behind? The Green Party in Lagan Valley wants to see a truly shared space, where people do not avoid Lisburn due to its reputation. It is time we put our citizens first and supported our local businesses with some positive PR!

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