Objectors to Pride illumination ‘living in the dark ages’: Kimmins

August 25, 2014

The decision by Newry and Mourne District Council not to fund the illumination of the Craigmore Viaduct in the colours of the rainbow flag to support the upcoming Newry Pride festival, has been strongly criticized by Sinn Fein.

At a Council meeting on Monday last, a motion put forward by Sinn Fein Councillors to light up the Craigmore Viaduct to mark the Newry Pride festival later this month was defeated.

The decision prompted a backlash from those supporting the illumination, with Councillor Liz Kimmins claiming those opposed are “living in the dark ages” and said the debate smacked of a “nasty homophobic undertone”.

“Newry and Mourne Council have, on several occasions, approved the illumination of the Craigmore Viaduct to celebrate significant dates or highlight issues.  Now narrow-minded political interests on the Council have opposed the proposal, claiming that it is suddenly too expensive,” Councillor Kimmins said.

“In my opinion there was a nasty homophobic undertone to this debate.  By refusing to support illuminating the viaduct, these reactionary elements are living in the dark ages.  This decision showed little tolerance and was certainly not an example of a modern, progressive inclusive council committed to positive change.”

Councillor Kimmins pledged the continued support of her party in solidarity with the LGBT community to create positive change in society, promoting equal rights for everyone.

Adding that she and her party colleagues intend to “revisit the decision”, she said, “I believe that it should be possible in order to celebrate Pride in Newry, to illuminate either the Craigmore Viaduct or Newry Town Hall, with little burden to the Council’s finances. I have asked the Council Group Leaders Committee to discuss this proposal as a matter of urgency.”

Meanwhile, SDLP Councillor, Michael Carr, has called on the Council to investigate placing a permanent lighting fixture at the Viaduct, allowing the landmark to be lit in different colours to celebrate cultural festivals and support charities throughout the year.

Revealing that the cost of temporarily lighting the viaduct for the Pride festival would cost several thousand pounds, Councillor Carr says the Council should instead explore installing a permanent fixture that would represent value for money and which other events can make use of.

“It is our view that a temporary structure is not good enough and the Council should immediately explore installing a permanent fixture to light the landmark up for a range of festivals and charities every year. If that results in a figure which represents value for money then Newry Pride, Breast Cancer Awareness and a host of other great causes can make use of it,” Councillor Carr said.

“The SDLP is fully supportive of Newry Pride and gay rights. [The Council’s] decision is in no way reflective of our steadfast support for the LGBT community. The opposite is true.   Our MPs have voted in favour of equal marriage at Westminster and our MLAs the same in Stormont, and even now we believe a piecemeal approach to lighting the Arches for Newry pride isn’t good enough.

“In the interim, if the Council Chief Executive can source a reduced price for lighting the Viaduct this year, we will be more than happy to review the decision. We are elected to represent all the people in this area and that’s a duty we take very seriously,” he added.

A spokesperson for Newry and Mourne District Council said the decision was based on budget and cost.

The Newry Pride Festival and Parade runs from Monday August 25th to Saturday August 30th.