30/09/2008

Bid For Clerics' Honour Fails

Limavady councillors have voted down plans to offer-up the Freedom of the Borough to two local clergymen - one of whom was forced to flee the area in 1984.

Nationalist councillors proposed the motion at a special council meeting yesterday.

Reverend David Armstrong received threats against his life after a public gesture of cross-community cohesion at Christmas, 25 years ago.

A handshake between Mr Armstrong and the local Catholic Priest Father Kevin Mullan was enough to spark outrage within some sections of the Protestant community.

Mr Armstrong was labelled a "Lundy" by some angry local people, and he later moved away to England with his family.

Last night councillors rejected calls to grant Mr Armstrong and Father Mullan the honour of Freedom of the Borough.
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Despite gaining a positive vote of eight to six – the motion was not carried, as it failed to get the two-thirds support necessary.

Councillor Michael Coyle, of the SDLP, who brought forward the item, expressed disappointment at the outcome.

"There's nothing to stop me doing the same thing again in 10 days time, but I don't think attitudes are going to change in that time - they have been deep rooted for the last 25 years," he told the waiting press.

Angry at the result, Mr Coyle was puzzled about what his "unionist colleagues were doing".

"What is really disappointing and what angers me is that not one unionist councillor spoke at the debate.

"I'm sure this will be a great disappointment to both David Armstong and Fr Mullan.

"This was a unique opportunity to offer the Freedom of the Borough, which has never been done before in Limavady," added Mr Coyle.

Unionist councillors leaving the meeting declined to make any comments to the media regarding their decision.

(PR)

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