PROPOSALS to grant the Orange Order the Freedom of the City are to be considered by Lisburn City Council. Councillors discussed the motion which was put forward by DUP councillor Paul Givan, MIA, on Tuesday evening.
Sinn Fein, Alliance and an Independent Nationalist councillor opposed the plans which will now move to the council's Corporate Services committee for further consideration.
The SDLP were not present to vote.
The motion will go through equality screening for assessment on whether it has the potential to impact differently and unfairly on various groups.
Mr Givan said the issue was raised as he and his party believes the Orange Order to be an "invaluable" part of society.
This is all about recognising an organisation which has over 600 halls in Northern Ireland, used extensively by the community," he said.
In Lisburn in particular, the community get excellent value out of the Orange Order - they are part of our society and we want to recognise them."
He continued: "In Lisburn there are over 60 Orange Halls, they are used extensively by the community and there is extensive fundraising by the Orange Order and we believe that they would be worthy recipients of this award.
"I recognise some might not support this.
But we are bringing this motion forward because we recognise that the Orange Order are an invaluable part of our community, they are integral to it. We are building a shared future and the Orange Order and those of that tradition have a key role to play in that."
Sinn Fein councillor Arder Carson said the Orange Order had "a lot of reforming to do" before his party would back such a proposal.
"I appreciate that we're trying to move forward towards a shared society, but like other groups have done, the Orange Order need to reform before it can be recognised by members in this city"
Alliance Councillor Brian Doman said he had "special fundamental problems" with the proposal as "the Orange Order is not open to the whole community".
"Seeking to confer the Freedom of the City on the Orange Order is not justified at this time. While the Order remains politically active with a restricted membership not enjoying widespread community support, it is inappropriate for Lisburn City Council to bestow our highest civic honour on them," Mr Doman concluded.
A FORMER Mayor of Lisburn City Council has slammed his SDLP colleagues for not attending the council's monthly meeting when a vote was taken to move forward a motion proposing the Orange Order be given the Freedom of the City.
Councillor Brain Heading who was absent from the meeting says he was on holiday and his colleagues were aware of this but failed to represent their party.
Mr Heading said that Councillors Pat Catney and John Drake's absence was a "gross dereliction of their political duty to those they represent."
He described their absence as "an act of political cowardness" and said he was "shamed and angry at their absence and lack of leadership."
Mr Heading also praised Councillor Brian Doman who was opposed to the motion saying: "I congratulate the Alliance party and Brian Dornan's stance he took at the meeting. He was obeying the leadership that was clearly absent from the SDLP.'
According to the SDLP, all three representatives were away due to family commitments and were only told of the proposal about honouring the Orange Order at short notice.
Mr Drake and Mr Catney were unavailable for comment.
A LISBURN UUP councillor has said that giving the Freedom of the City to the Orange Order would be "irresponsible".
Speaking after Lisburn City's monthly meeting was held Councillor Ronnie Crawford, who was unable to attend the meeting said he is disappointed no one asked the question where the Council is going to get the anticipated £50,000 for any Freedom of the City ceremony.
He said: "In the present economic circumstances, such expenditure would be irresponsible-and a blow to ratepayers and struggling businesses in the city centre."
Mr Crawford continued: "The proposal has more to do with the DUP's discomfort with the on-going work on the 'hunger strike museum but ratepayers' money should not be used to try and rescue the credibility of one political party. In addition the Royal Black Institution and the Masonic Order also do a lot of excellent work raising very large sums for various charities and they too would be justified in demanding similar recognition.
"This is the politics of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and to discuss this
motion in the
middle of an economic crisis demonstrates that at the moment, Lisburn Council is the only circus in town."
ALLIANCE Councillors on Lisburn City Council say they ensured that a DUP motion to confer the freedom of the city to the Orange Order was debated after what they described as "an attempt was made to curtail discussion" on the topic at Tuesday's monthly meeting.
The Alliance Councillors were among the eight members who voted against the motion which 18 members favoured to be discussed at the council's Corporate Committee.
Group leader Councillor Brian Doman insisted on his right to speak on the motion.
Mr Doman said: "Seeking to confer the freedom of the city on the Orange Order is not justified at this time. While the Order remains politically active with a restricted membership not enjoying widespread community support, it is inappropriate for Lisburn City Council to bestow our highest civic honour on them."
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Stephen Martin, Chairman of the Corporate Services Committee to which the motion has been sent, said: "People will be left scratching their heads asking why the DUP decided to devote its attention to spending ratepayers money on bestowing the Freedom of the City to the Orange Order.
"I share that bewilderment when we should be working on the economic issues facing us. I do not think anyone can justify throwing a civic party for an organisation which explicitly states it represents one community and not us all. Civic honours are for exceptional individuals and organisations.
"The DUP failed to explain why the Order merits being placed on a civic pedestal. You are left with the distinct impression that this rushed inappropriate motion is a purely political stunt to court votes."
Councillor Jennifer Coulter concluded: "I was disappointed at the lack of a SDLP presence at the Council meeting and their position requires urgent clarification. The DUP have overreached on this occasion by using their manufactured majority and a complaisant UUP to rush through a proposal most people I am certain would consider unnecessary."