Sinn Fein slams Armed Forces Day funding

Ulster Unionist Councillors with the Armed Forces Day Flag at Craigavon Civic Centre
Ulster Unionist Councillors with the Armed Forces Day Flag at Craigavon Civic Centre

A row has erupted after Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council agreed to fund Armed Forces Day commemorations.

Elected members on the Economic Development and Regeneration Committee backed a motion on September 10 to allocate a budget of between £50,000 and £60,000 for events in 2020.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Sinn Fein Craigavon representative, Councillor Catherine Nelson said the money would be “much better spent uniting the people of the borough than dividing them.”

Councillor Nelson added: “The track record of the British armed forces in the North is steeped in collusion.

“Many of those we represent suffered at the hands of the British armed forces and would in no way welcome a celebration event of this sort to the tune of sixty thousand pounds.

“Whilst unsurprised that this enjoyed the support of both unionist parties, we were disappointed by the Alliance Party who spoke in favour of such an event.”

Hitting out at Councillor Nelson’s comments, Upper Bann UUP MLA, Doug Beattie said: “I treat Councillor Nelson’s comments with contempt.

“Sinn Fein don’t want the British Army to exist. They don’t want money to go to people who are in the army or who support the army.

“They have a deep ingrained hatred of people who support the army or who serve in the forces.

“My party will not be taking any lectures from a party that supported terrorists who killed many of their fellow countrymen.”

Mr Beattie’s party colleague, Councillor Julie Flaherty added: “It is so desperately sad that Councillor Catherine Nelson is still so consumed with bitterness about anything British.

“However, given her comments on Twitter in the summer calling for ‘Brits out’ I am not terribly surprised.

“It must be terribly depressing to be so stuck in the past when others are trying to move on and make things better for the people in our borough.

“The British Army recruits people from all over Northern Ireland and beyond - from all backgrounds - North and South. This is a hugely prestigious event - a showcase event for our borough.

“This is a great opportunity to promote good relations and civic pride in our people and our borough, as shown by the cross party support from the outset.”

Outside the chamber, Alliance Party Councillor, Brian Pope said: “The Alliance Party supports Armed Forces Day to recognise those who have served the country and our representatives have participated in recent events. All such events should be at reasonable cost to the public purse.”

The motion will now go before full council, where members will consider it for ratification.