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Belfast councillors in 'childish' dispute over name of NI

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A bitter argument over the use of the term 'North of Ireland' erupted during a Belfast City Council meeting as members discussed housing standards

A bitter argument over the use of the term 'North of Ireland' erupted during a Belfast City Council meeting as members discussed housing standards

A bitter argument over the use of the term 'North of Ireland' erupted during a Belfast City Council meeting as members discussed housing standards

A bitter argument over the use of the term 'North of Ireland' erupted during a Belfast City Council meeting as members discussed housing standards.

Councillors reprimanded each other as "petty" and "childish" after a DUP councillor asked for an amendment on a Sinn Fein housing motion which involved changing the words 'North of Ireland' to 'Northern Ireland'.

After a half-hour debate on the matter, which involved more time spent on the terminology of the region than housing conditions, the council agreed to use the term 'this district'.

During Tuesday's remote meeting of the full council, Sinn Fein councillor Claire Canavan forwarded a motion urging a Stormont review of housing standards.

The motion asked councillors to note "that the current housing fitness standard that is applied to private rented housing in the North of Ireland is the statutory minimum physical standard which focuses on the most basic structural standards for human habitation and applies to all tenures. It was last updated in 1992".

The DUP's Dale Pankhurst said: "The DUP agrees with the sentiment of this motion. I deal with more housing cases than I do anything else."

But he proposed two amendments, the first to replace the term 'North of Ireland' with 'Northern Ireland' and to add paragraphs on social housing.

Green councillor Mal O'Hara said he would support the Pankhurst amendment, but he added: "I want to express exasperation that amendments have corrected other people's terminology in what they call this place. I think we could do with a lot more respect."

Councillor Canavan said she accepted the additional paragraph on social housing but would not accept the change of terminology.

While the chief executive asked for a pause to consider the matter, Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Beattie suggested "the six counties" and Alliance councillor Michael Long asked, "Could I suggest they just catch themselves on?"

DUP Alderman Brian Kingston told the council: "I know people can use whatever terms they like when they speak, but the North of Ireland is not a legal entity. When we are talking about legal matters, we need to talk about a jurisdiction. Northern Ireland is the name."

Councillors eventually agreed to the additional Pankhurst paragraph and both the terms 'North of Ireland' and 'Northern Ireland' were dropped in favour of 'this district'.

Belfast Telegraph