Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Council damaging image of our city

Once again Belfast councillors manage to scrape off the scabs of old festering wounds for no good reason and in the process do untold harm to their city.

 A DUP motion on the murder of two soldiers 25 years ago was the catalyst for more unseemly antagonism in the chamber and a further attempt to demonise the Alliance party, which proposed an amendment acknowledging all victims of the past 40 years.

The council decision to pass the amendment caused anger on the unionist benches.

But was any of it necessary?

Quite simply no.

While the murder of the two corporals who stumbled across an IRA funeral was barbaric, so too were many of the other killings during the Troubles.

A cynic might suggest that the original proposal was a trap designed to provoke a response, but even if it was, Alliance had no need to walk straight into it.

This newspaper supported Alliance on its stance on flag flying, but there was no huge point of principle involved in the city hall motion.

Alliance might argue that it was trying to push the ideal of a shared future and how all deaths should be remembered and regretted.

But the party must have known that its amendment, too, would be provocative.

Yet there was still no excuse for the anger displayed in the chamber, particularly that directed at Alliance which has seen some of its members face death threats as a result of the flag protests.

Once again the temperature in the city is being ratcheted up as we approach the always contentious marching season.

The city was nearly brought to its knees economically by the flag protests and now is making the news again for all the wrong reasons.

Councillors seem unable or unwilling to learn the lessons of the past, even the very recent past.

Their job is to run the city efficiently and to promote it as a place in which to work and relax.

This is not a time for posturing over what, in this context, are meaningless gestures and damaging the reputation of the city to the outside world.

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