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24 July 2003 Edition

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Lisburn: 'A City For Everyone' - Except Catholics

By Laura Friel


Sinn Féin is seeking a judicial review and calling for the political isolation of Lisburn City Council, after the UUP and DUP excluded Sinn Féin, the SDLP, and the Alliance Party from holding any senior position on the Council at its AGM on 26 June and unionists deferred a Sinn Féin motion calling for equality on the council this week.

This blatant act of discrimination means that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Lisburn are both unionists, along with all of the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of every single Council Committee.

"The message this sends out to nationalists and others on Lisburn Council, is that their voice does not count," Sinn Féin's Paul Butler told An Phoblacht. "It is clear that Lisburn Council is not prepared to share power with nationalists and others. Unionist domination is now complete.

"This decision makes a total mockery out of the Council's promotion of Lisburn as 'a city for everyone'. Many Catholics in Lisburn will be asking themselves how they can have any confidence in the Council when it treats it's political representatives in this way."



Outraged by the AGM decision, Sinn Féin put forward a motion to trigger the d'Hondt system at the monthly Council meeting this Tuesday 22 July. It was an effort to ensure that positions on the Council could be allocated fairly, but unionists refused to debate the motion. Instead they referred it to the Strategic Policy Committee, which will not look at the issue until September.

"Tuesday night's decision not to allow a Sinn Féin motion about implementing proportionality to be debated shows how much contempt the UUP and DUP have for other elected representatives on the Council," Butler told An Phoblacht. "It is a clear case of democracy denied. Lisburn Council has denied nationalists and other elected representatives on the Council freedom of speech.

"The only course of action open to us now is to take Lisburn Council to court. If they are found guilty of discrimination, maybe we can get the unfair and undemocratic decision of the AGM overturned.

"Therefore we are now seeking a judicial review. I will be speaking to our solicitors about this later in the week. I am hopeful that we can get Lisburn Council into court. The only people who can stop that is the unionists on Lisburn Council - by reversing the decisions they took at the AGM."

Sinn Féin party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has also said that the situation is "totally intolerable."

"The reality is that the message this sends out to Catholics, or to other nationalists in Lisburn, is that there is no need to apply as far as Lisburn City Council is concerned," he said. "Make no mistake about it, if that type of blatant and direct discrimination can happen in the election to the senior positions on the council, then the ratepayers of Lisburn can expect no better."

"We intend to be part of an effective campaign about bringing democracy to the Council. It's not about collapsing local government institutions, but it is about making them democratic - and transparently democratic."


Sinn Féin's campaign to end discrimination in Lisburn will include calls for:

the implementation of the d'Hondt power-sharing system, in which positions are shared between parties according to strength.
motions to be put before all councils in the Six Counties on Lisburn Council and its exclusion of nationalist representatives.
the SDLP and the cross-community Alliance Party to support the campaign to end discrimination against the 17,000 voters who vote for the parties in the area.
the British government to consider dissolving Lisburn Council and take power out of unionist hands.
debates in Irish, British and European parliaments and in US Congress to pass motions in support of nationalists in Lisburn.

Sinn Féin will actively oppose publicity campaigns for the new city, which uses the slogan: 'Lisburn, A City for Everyone'. The party will also protest at any events Lisburn Council is invited to. Sinn Féin will also petition the business and community sectors to refuse to use the Council's Island Civic Centre for conferences and community groups in Twinbrook, Poleglass and Lagmore not to invite the mayor or deputy mayor into the area.
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