Lisburn City Council has rejected a proposal to write to the South African Embassy asking for the Council’s condolences to be relayed to the family of Nelson Mandela and the South African Government.
At Tuesday night’s monthly meeting of the Council Alliance Councillor Brian Dornan put forward his proposal which was seconded by SDLP councillor Brian Heading.
Following a recorded vote 17 councillors from the DUP and UUP voted against it while 10 councillors from Alliance, SDLP and Sinn Fein showed support.
Mr Dornan said he felt his proposal appropriate as “Mr Mandela made a unique and critical contribution”.
However DUP councillor, Alderman James Tinsley said: “He (Mr Mandela) was a terrorist and wasn’t in jail for nothing.“
Sinn Fein Councillor David Bell said: “This isn’t a party political issue. We must acknowledge his contribution to world peace.”
Mr Heading said: “The SDLP are really disappointed the opportunity to express the Council’s condolences to the South African people has been missed.”
Meanwhile the Lagan Valley Green party has started a petition calling on the Mayor to open a book of Condolence for Mr Mandela.
A spokesperson for the group said: “The Lagan Valley Green Party has reacted with sadness at the decision to refuse to create a book of condolence for Nelson Mandela.
“In doing so we believe she has made Mandela’s death a political issue, when there was no need to do so. Secondly it has tarnished Lisburn’s image at a time of year when we need as much goodwill as we can get to foster our town’s economy.
“We believe that the many residents of Lisburn who wish to convey their sympathy and warm regards to the surviving family and those who have felt the loss worldwide should have the ability to do so.
“We have created an online petition for all those who wish to have a book of condolence in Lisburn Civic Centre. It can be found, and digitally signed, at: www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/lccmandelatribute”
A spokesperson for Lisburn City Council said: “Books of Condolence have been opened by Lisburn City Council on previous occasions for individuals from Northern Ireland who have died (such as George Best) or for individuals from the United Kingdom whose lives have been cut short, and sometimes in tragic and untimely circumstances, such as Drummer Lee Rigby and the former Princess of Wales.
“The Council has also opened Books of Condolence for people who have died from Northern Ireland. The Council may, as it determines appropriate, open Books of Condolence for individuals from Northern Ireland, who may be prominent persons, or because of circumstances involved. The Council did not open Books of Condolence for the former Prime Minister of the UK, Baroness Thatcher.”
“Lisburn City Council would state that it is the council’s understanding that not all 26 councils in Northern Ireland have opened Books of Condolence for Mr Mandela. Lisburn City Council understands that this is a matter for each council, and would not comment on an individual council’s position; only its own position,” they added.