I attended Lisburn City Council’s full council meeting held tonight at Lisburn City Council’s magnificent Civic Centre on Tuesday 22 November 2005 at 7pm. A wonderful Christmas tree with amazing decorations welcomed me to Lisburn City Council’s building, adorned with the phrase “A City for Everyone”.
After considering other matters Council was asked whether they wanted to adopt the minutes of the Special Corporate Services Committee convened last night (Monday 21 November 2005) to consider legal advice that Lisburn CC should allow use of the Cherry Room for Civil Partnerships. As you all know, the Special Corporate Services Committee agreed last night to overturn the ban on the Cherry Room.
Cllr Peter O’Hagan (SDLP) proposed and Cllr Trevor Lunn (Deputy Mayor, Alliance) seconded the adoption of the minutes. They were accordingly adopted. I can therefore confirm that the ban has been lifted and lesbian, gay and bisexual people can register their Civil Partnerships in the Cherry Room from Monday 19 December 2005.
Following this the Mayor (Cllr Jonathan Craig (DUP)) asked Councillors if there were any matters arising from the minutes just adopted. Cllr Seamus Close MLA (Alliance) rose as the first speaker to deliver a wide ranging pre written speech.
Cllr Close remarked that it was a sad evening for local democracy with the voice of the people threatened by legal action of a few. He commented that the people of Northern Ireland had supported his principled stand with many emails, phone calls and letters received. Cllr Close stated that Civil Partnership legislation had not been supported by Northern Ireland MPS but had, in his opinion, been foisted upon the Council. He said that he had to accept the legislation as a democrat but could not support it.
The senior Alliance politician stated that the government was being economical with the truth and perverted in their approach to right and wrong with lie as a pillar of state.
Cllr Close commented “We are told that to prevent homosexuals and lesbians using the Cherry Room is discriminatory, may be unlawful and interferes with respect for their private lives” but remarked that this begged the question “Who is being unreasonable?” with 86% of people opposed to Civil Partnerships.
Following on, Cllr Close remarked that he felt that Civil Partnerships to be an instrument for other changes remarking that it would be perverted for young people to have “two daddies or mummies” with adoption to be a direct consequence of the Civil Partnerships legislation.
Cllr Close stated that they were being asked to give a “veneer of democracy to a dictatorial regime”.
Closing his speech, Cllr Close detailed that reversing the ban on using the Cherry Room for Civil Partnerships goes against every fibre in his body and his conscience and that he could not and would not support the change.
He stated that, as a result, he intended to withdraw from the meeting and let others support the motion with the dire consequences that would result.
After leaving the room the Mayor (Cllr Jonathan Craig (DUP)) stated that the minutes of the Special Corporate Services Committee convened last night (Monday 21 November 2005) had already been adopted and therefore no opportunity existed to vote on the matter. Giggles were heard.
Cllr Paul Butler (Sinn Fein) then rose and remarked that the decision to overturn the ban was a good decision and the only decision. He commented that Lisburn City Council stood accused to discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people and condemned the extreme homophobic attitudes displayed by Cllr Close. Cllr Butler stated that LGB people possibly make up 10% of people in Lisburn but was heckled by Cllr Paul Girvan (DUP) with “prove it, prove it”. In closing Cllr Butler stated that he welcomed that
the Cherry Room could now be used.
After Cllr Butler spoke the Mayor (Cllr Jonathan Craig (DUP)) reminded Cllr Butler and all present that they were not protected by Parliamentary privilege and should ensure any comments made about other Cllrs weren’t slanderous.
Cllr Patricia Lewsley (SDLP) then rose and also welcomed the decision. Cllr Lewsley reminded Cllr’s that the Civil Partnership’s legislation was a legal safeguard and not marriage and that the Cherry Room was not the Marriage Room as it was used for many events, including Council meetings.
Cllr Lewsley commented that when the matter first arose she had asked Lisburn City Council’s Chief Executive whether the motion was legal and had been informed by the Chief Executive that it was but, in fact, the Council had failed to fulfil its equality obligations and that a Equality Impact Assessment was now being carried out.
Cllr Jonathan Craig (DUP) then commented that the Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) “could well be dead”.
Cllr Edwin Poots MLA (DUP) then spoke about the matter. Cllr Poots stated that Civil Partnerships were “marriage in all but name” and that Mr Blair had done it again with con man tactics.
Cllr Poots stated that it was a “slap in the face for basic morality” and that homosexuality was unnatural, undesirable and “repulsive to many people”.
He stated that the next step would be adoption and that homosexuality was unnatural as homosexuals cannot conceive. He stated that 10% statistic was crazy and that 0.2% was more convincing.
Cllr Poots remarked that it was up to homosexuals to address and overcome their homosexuality, he had no problem with individuals who are homosexual but that homosexuality is a problem that needs to be overcome just like alcoholism and drug addiction.
Edwin Poots commented that Cllr Close had been an advocate of Section 75 but that it was coming back to “haunt him and us all” with this being “rammed down our throats”.
Cllr Poots then acknowledged that the minutes had been adopted but proposed that the Council adopted a motion stating that the Council resents the undermining of family values by Civil Partnerships, that the Council is opposed to Civil Partnerships and deeply concerned that the democratic wishes of those with moral convictions are being overridden.
Whilst Cllr Paul Givan (DUP) seconded the motion the Chief Executive advised that the matter should not be considered at this point in the meeting. The Mayor Cllr Jonathan Craig (DUP) therefore decided that the matter should be considered under Any other business.
Cllr Ronnie Crawford (UUP) then spoke remarking that the decision marked the death of local democracy with all major religions opposed to homosexuality. Cllr Crawford stated that homosexuality was unnatural and a foreign practice to the body with human organs not designed for homosexuality.
Cllr Crawford voiced his annoyance that the Council was “suddenly hung out to try as legal opinion has changed” and informed all present that he intended to propose that the next Corporate Services Committee that the Cherry Room no longer be referred to as the Marriage Room.
Cllr Crawford then addressed the “Roman Catholic Councillors” and remarked that Sinn Fein had claimed to be the guardians of the people but that Civil Partnerships were iniquitous with both the last and current popes remarking that homosexuality is an unnatural disorder. Cllr Crawford stated that Sinn Fein were undermining what the Catholic Church teaches and that the “people kicking the pope are not on this side of the chamber”.
Cllr Crawford remarked that “in the face of gay rights fascism” they wanted to show that marriage and civil partnerships were different. He then continued to remark that homosexuals first wanted age of consent to 16, now want it lower and seem to have an open ear of “our Christian Prime Minister” who is “giving them all they want” with leaders of Stonewall given positions in government.
In closing Cllr Crawford stated that the vast majority of constituents were against and that unelected quangos such as the Equality Commission were overriding the will of the people and that a new bill of rights was required.
Cllr Ferguson (Sinn Fein) then spoke. Cllr Ferguson welcomed the decision, disassociated himself with the many homophobic comments made by previous speakers and the comments which, he felt, many people would find offensive.
The meeting then continued and under Any other Business Cllr Paul Givan (DUP) proposed the motion earlier mentioned by Cllr Poots who had since left the meeting. Many Councillors supported the motion including Cllr Trevor Lunn (Deputy Mayor, Alliance) and some, from UUP & Alliance abstained but all SDLP and Sinn Fein Councillors opposed the motion. The motion (more a homophobic rant really) was therefore passed but with lesbian, gay and bisexual still able to register their partnerships in the Cherry Room.
Seamus Close was deputy leader of the party at the time I was Director of Elections / Party Organiser ten years ago. He was always a loose cannon, especially on this sort of issue. I hope the current party leadership manages to distance themselves from him – again.
Ironically, Seamus was one of the negotiators of the Good Friday Agreement, which includes “a statutory obligation on public authorities in Northern Ireland to carry out all their functions with due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity in relation to religion and political opinion; gender; race; disability; age; marital status; dependants; and sexual orientation.”