As a £60k spend on Armed Forces Day was agreed by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council on Monday, protestors voiced outrage outside the Civic Centre.
The council agreed to a request from the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association NI (RFCA NI) to host Armed Forces Day (AFD) 2020.
The bid for an Armed Forces Day in the borough was backed by Ulster Unionist Glen Barr who hoped it could take place in Banbridge.
However Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd said: “Sinn Féin MLAs and councillors joined families of loved ones killed by collusion between British forces and Unionists death squads outside ABC Council last night (Monday).
“They were calling on councillors to reject a proposal to spend £60k of ratepayers money on celebrating ‘British Armed Forces Day’.”
“A large part of the population would not feel welcome at such an event and it is our view that ratepayers money would be much better spent uniting the people of our Borough.
“Families in this very Borough suffered at the hands of the Glenanne Gang who targeted innocent nationalist and unionist civilians in collusion with British state forces.We are disappointed that, with the support of the Alliance party, the proposal passed.”
Alliance Cllr Eoin Tennyson said: “It is important to recognise this is a sensitive subject given NI’s history – but it is appropriate that we mark those from our borough in the Armed Forces Community.
“As a firm believer in a shared future, I believe NI is at its best when we celebrate our diverse views, cultures and identities in a measured, tolerant and respectful manner. Of course, any event should be at reasonable cost to the public purse and in committee Alliance raised questions about the costs and the possibilities of working with partner agencies to dilute that cost.
“We are a party of law and order. We show respect for those who serve within the law to uphold the law, we stand firmly behind all victims in their quest for truth and justice, and we believe anyone who breaks the law – whether in uniform or not – should be held to account.”
SDLP Cllr Joe Nelson said his party objected: “Firstly I expressed a concern that once again ratepayers were being loaded with a financial burden of £60k which when added to the WW1, WW2, Queens Jubilee and other events of this nature has incurred a spend of £320k since the formation of ABC.
“None of the recognition events of a nationalist nature like the Easter Rising centenary were given any consideration. I also stated that the people I represent would not be happy with this expenditure. I quoted statistics in relation to the fact that in the last census in the Craigavon legacy borough the Catholic/Nationalist population was 45% and growing.
“I was challenged by the Alliance party about the use of the term assuming that all Catholics are not Nationalist. Catholic/Nationalist is a widely used term in NI to differentiate the ‘communities’ we represent as is PUL (Protestant-Unionist-Loyalist) to represent that community.
“As Alliance voted in favour of the motion it becoming clear which side of the fence they sit on.”