Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

UUP man ‘petty’ in voting against GAA team tribute

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall

A row over a reception for a women’s GAA team has broken out at Belfast City Hall.

An Ulster Unionist councillor has said he has no regrets opposing a motion to honour a women's Gaelic football team even though he admitted it was “petty”.

David Browne was among a number of unionists at Belfast City Council who voted against a decision to host a reception for the Co Antrim winners of the Junior All-Ireland Football final.

Alderman Browne said he planned to “let this thing go through” but changed his mind after Sinn Fein “browbeating”.

The reception will go ahead after the proposal by the SDLP's Nichola Mallon, was voted through by a majority of councillors. Members of Alliance Party, the SDLP and Sinn Fein voted in favour of the reception at Thursday's meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee.

Ms Mallon said she was shocked and saddened by the unionist response to her proposal.

It comes after the First Minister attended a tribute match at Casement Park in Belfast in memory of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey, daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte.

Ms Mallon said: “This was a wonderful, hard-won achievement by the Antrim Ladies team.

“As a city we should be particularly proud because a large number of the players live in Belfast.

“I am shocked that the DUP and UUP voted against even a finger buffet for the players. They need to explain why.

“They have sent out a very negative message and I very much regret that this has been reduced to party politicking,” she said.

Ms Mallon said that in the past, receptions were held for Dame Mary Peters, Glentoran FC, boxer Paddy Barnes, former Linfield player Noel Bailie as well as west Belfast's St Gall's GAA team.

Mr Browne said he initially “fully intended to let this thing go through”.

“I wouldn't be opposed to any hospitality for the team but what I was opposed to was being browbeaten into supporting it by Sinn Fein,” he said.

He explained that when the DUP signalled its decision to oppose it, he was prompted into changing his mind by the reaction of Sinn Fein.

“They asked why not and it all broke out so I decided I'm not going to be dictated to by anyone.”

Mr Browne admitted his change of heart was for a “petty” reason, conceding “very, very much so”.

But he stressed: “I do not regret” the decision, stating,“it's not what the DUP said, it was the attitude of Sinn Fein”.

Tim Attwood of the SDLP, also present at the meeting, commented that just last week the First Minister Peter Robinson had attended the Casement Park tribute.

“Here on Saturday last you have the positive side of the DUP, then the following Thursday we have a very negative and sectarian view of the DUP coming out,” he said.

No one from either the DUP or Sinn Fein was available for comment on the row last night.

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