Unionists at Belfast City Hall have refused to back an historic bid to invite the Pope to the city, blasting it as 'presumptuous,' 'dishonourable' and 'electioneering,' reports The Belfast Telegraph.
However, UUP and PUP members of the City Council on Wednesday night did not vote against the proposal by SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy, instead choosing to abstain. The motion was passed by 30 votes to none against, with the SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance all backing it.
The debate around the proposal lasted more than 30 minutes – longer than the Council devoted to any other topic. By comparison, just two minutes was spent discussing the issue of food poverty in the city.
Councillor McCarthy proposed the motion to invite Pope Francis to Belfast, noting that in February the Irish Senate had invited the Pontiff to visit the Republic. He urged his fellow councillors to ask the Pope to visit Belfast 'as a man of faith, peace and reconciliation'.
'In recent months and years our society has become static, the flame of hope and ambition experienced with the Good Friday Agreement has dwindled, but is not dead,' he said. 'It is up to us to rekindle it.'
DUP group leader Lee Reynolds responded by telling the Council that if the Pope is invited to Belfast, it is for the Queen to do as the UK head of state, not the Council.
Belfast City Council to invite Pope to city as unionists abstain from historic vote (The Belfast Telegraph)