Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council motion to stop Lord Mayor visit to White House withdrawn

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A motion to stop the Lord Mayor of Belfast visiting the White House on St Patrick's Day has been withdrawn.

At a meeting of Belfast City Council this evening councillors were voting on a motion proposed by SDLP councillor Brian Heading.

An amendment by Alliance Party councillor Michael Long changed the wording of the motion's opening paragraphs, and removed a proposal that the Council should aim to prevent any future visit of Donald Trump to Northern Ireland, and a proposal that the Lord Mayor should decline an invitation for St Patrick's Day visit to the White House while the current President is in office.

A vote by councillors saw the amendment added the motion with a vote of 38 for and 11 against.

As a result of this Councillor Brian Heading withdrew the motion.

The amended motion read: "This Council reiterates that it is committed to treating everyone fairly, with equality and respect, and through doing so help our city in its transition from a period of division caused by conflict to a city that celebrates diversity and pluralism.

"The Council condemns the recent comments made by President Trump regarding the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, their lack of clarity and his failure to condemn racist organisations such as the Klu Klux Klan and Neo Nazi gangs."

The amendment removed the following two paragraphs from the motion:

"As such, the Council agrees to write, through its Lord Mayor and First Citizen, to the British Prime Minster to request that any invitation, present or future, to the President of the United States, Donald Trump, to visit Britain or Northern Ireland is withdrawn or excluded from consideration.

"The Council is also aware that an invitation is traditionally extended to the Lord Mayor to attend the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House, Washington DC, each year and requests that, in the event of this invitation being extended again in 2018 and in subsequent years, the Lord Mayor, subsequent Lord Mayors, or any other representatives of the Council, consider declining such an invitation to visit the White House or any state event at which the current US President is anticipated to be in attendance."

During the course of the debate different views were expressed on the impact that the snub on the US President could have.

Former SDLP councillor Kate Mullan, who quit the party in June following a row over leadership, spoke out against the actions of Donald Trump, but noted that Belfast City Council would have greater influence by attending a reception at the White House rather than abstaining from it.

"Whether we like it or not we have to accept who the Americans voted for as President," she said.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers claimed he wouldn't be surprised if Donald Trump was aware that the Council debate was taking place, and that passing the motion could be potentially harmful for future business relations between the United States and Northern Ireland.

Responding to this, SDLP councillor Tim Atwood said that it was "always the right time to have a good honest debate in this chamber", and that "international investment is mobile, it goes where it has the best deal".

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