DUP tries to block Northern Ireland council flying Pride flag
The DUP has used a special 'call-in' procedure to block the flying of rainbow flags on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council's civic buildings for this weekend's Pride events.
The council had been set to make history by becoming the first in Northern Ireland to fly the Pride flag above its three main civic buildings on Saturday.
The chief executive of the council now has 48 hours to seek legal advice which must then be presented to a full council. However, no meeting is scheduled before Saturday's parade. Calls have now been made for a special meeting of the council on Friday. If that does not happen, then the flags will not fly.
The 'call-in' move comes after a notice of motion brought by Sinn Fein on flying the flags narrowly passed 12-11 at a full council meeting last Monday evening. DUP councillors voted against the motion while the Ulster Unionists abstained after their amendment recommending that council buildings be lit in the pride colours instead was rejected.
A council spokesperson confirmed the 'call in' had been received.
Sinn Fein group leader on the council Darren McNally slammed the DUP for trying to prevent the flying of the Rainbow flag.
"The move by the DUP to call-in Sinn Fein's motion to fly the rainbow flag at civic buildings across the area is disgraceful and disrespectful to our LGBTQ+ community," he said. "This call-in came in the final hour - and is an effort to run down the clock on gaining legal advice and securing a special meeting of the council before Saturday."
Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Julie Flaherty confirmed: "The call-in was received on Tuesday morning and it's now in the hands of the Chief Executive. That's where we're at as things stand."
Meanwhile, in a separate development, Barnardo's has become the first children's charity in Northern Ireland to publicly voice support for the recognition of same-sex marriage.
It made the announcement to coincide with Belfast Pride's Coming Out for Change campaign, and just days before the city's Pride parade.
Barnardo's has in the past supported marriage equality campaigns in other areas of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.
The director of Barnardo's NI Lynda Wilson said it hoped to see marriage equality extended to Northern Ireland.
"We are committed to providing equality of opportunity and believe marriage equality is an extension of that," she said.