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Nationalists called heathens over Pope invite and gay marriage support

By Rebecca Black

Published 05/11/2015

Tirade: Henry Reilly
Tirade: Henry Reilly

Nationalists who voted to invite the Pope to Northern Ireland have been branded "heathens and hypocrites" for also backing gay marriage.

Pope Francis has received three invitations from councils across the province.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council became the latest to write to the Vatican inviting the pontiff to come over the border in 2018 when he is expected to travel to Dublin for the 9th World Meeting of Families.

Belfast City Council voted on Monday to issue a second invitation to the Pope.

The Vatican said in response to an invitation issued by Belfast last year that it noted the invitation and "noble sentiments that motivated it", but did not indicate whether the Pope would visit.

The votes in Belfast and Newry following proposals made by Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister and SDLP councillor Terry Andrews came just hours after MLAs for those parties voted for gay marriage in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Independent unionist councillor Henry Reilly blasted Newry colleagues who voted for it as "heathens and hypocrites", claiming he had more in common with the pontiff than nationalist councillors.

"We are indeed in strange times when I, as a Mourne Orangeman, have more in common with the Pope than the SDLP, Sinn Fein and independent nationalist councillors who are supporting this motion," he said.

"It is a fact that you all believe the direct opposite of what your religious leader believes, and the motion is therefore a sham and I will be opposing it."

In his remarks addressed to the council carried in the Newry Reporter, he continued to lambast nationalists.

"You are all token Catholics, and indeed heathens, and this motion is only being presented to assuage and smooth your guilty consciences and mitigate your guilt for supporting what you all know to be wrong," he said.

"You are hypocrites, every last one of you, rotten hypocrites, and I am completely opposed to such a sham and will be voting against the motion."

The motion included an invitation to the Pope to celebrate Mass at Kilbroney Park should he visit the district.

It passed with 23 in favour, four against and four abstentions.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, Ms McAllister's motion was passed by 38-1. The TUV's Jolene Bunting voted against, the DUP and PUP abstained, and the UUP voted yes.

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