Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Fury as mayor invites just one cleric to civic function: his own

A religious war of words erupted when an Ulster mayor announced he was asking just one clergyman to a prestigious civic function - his own Free Presbyterian minister.

The gala re-opening of Craigavon Civic Centre is later this month after a £4.5m revamp.

And DUP Mayor Robert Smith announced that his Mayoral chaplain, the Rev Kenneth Elliott of Bethany Free Presbyterian Church in Portadown, would be the sole man of the cloth attending the event.

This prompted a protest from Independent Councillor Kieran Corr that representatives of "the four main churches" - Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland and Methodist - should be invited.

But Alderman David Simpson, who is also the Upper Bann MP, pointed out that there were more Elims and Baptists than Methodists in Lurgan - a main town within the borough - which posed question as to which churches represented the main four.

And he added that Craigavon had hundreds of migrant workers with religions like the Muslim faith.

"Where do we stop?" he asked.

Alderman Stephen Moutray (also DUP) solved the problem by proposing that the Mayor should set aside a later date to show representatives of all the churches around.

Mr Simpson said: " Are so poor that we are begrudging a few clerics a cup of coffee?" The Moutray proposed was accepted.

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