Belfast Telegraph

Council unlikely to open book of condolence for Gaza victims due to unionist opposition

By Andrew Madden, Local Democracy Reporter

Requests for Belfast City Council to open a book of condolence for those killed on the Gaza Strip on Monday are unlikely to be granted as the move does not garner all-party support, it has emerged.

Palestinian health officials say more than 100 Palestinians have been killed and 10,000 injured by Israeli troops over the past six weeks in protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Sixty protestors died on Monday alone, when almost 50,000 took part in demonstrations coinciding with the controversial relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein have submitted formal requests for a book of condolence to be opened, however per council procedure, for this to go ahead it would require the agreement of all political parties.

It is understood both the main unionist parties do not support the move.

Protests condemning the actions of the Israeli forces have taken place across the island of Ireland, and around the world, in recent days.

In a statement released on Tuesday night, Sinn Fein group leader at BCC, Deirdre Hargey, called on the council’s chief executive, Suzanne Wylie, to contact other parties “immediately” with regards to their request.

“I have requested that a book of condolence be opened in Belfast City Hall for the victims of the massacre carried out by Israeli forces on innocent Palestinians in Gaza,” she said.

“I hope that the other parties on Belfast City Council will support this request that will allow Belfast Citizens to show their solidarity with the people of Palestine.”

The SDLP had already filed a similar request earlier on Tuesday, which council group leader Tim Attwood said was to “mark the killings and injuries inflicted on the people of Gaza and to show sympathy for the loss of life”.

"I believe the people of Belfast are horrified at the appalling scenes in Gaza from which has cost too many lives,” he added.

“People in Belfast want to express their condolences and sympathies to all those who have been killed or maimed."

Alliance’s Michael Long said his party would support opening a book of condolence after Monday’s “tragic” scenes on the Gaza Strip.

“Regardless of your political persuasion, the loss of lives in such circumstances needs to be recognised,” he added.

Both the Ulster Unionist party and the DUP did not respond to a request for comment.

It is understood an email outlining the requests for a book of condolence to be opened has been sent to all parties by council officials.

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