ALLIANCE Councillor Michael Long has called on fellow Castlereagh councillor and DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson to “catch a grip” following his claim (in today’s News Letter) that there was no need for power sharing in Castlereagh Borough Council because “Castlereagh isn’t a divided society”.
Cllr Long said it was an insult to those in the area who had suffered because of sectarianism and showed that the DUP was only interested in power sharing when it was forced to.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s Council meeting, at which a motion will be proposed by the SDLP claiming that non-unionist members are systematically denied top posts in the Council and proposing a new system of power sharing, Cllr Long said:
“I see the DUP have admitted defeat on their usual argument for exclusion, namely that Alliance and others do not have enough votes for the top position. Even Peter Robinson knows that under any system of proportionality Alliance would have been entitled to seven mayors in the last 30 years – although unionist parties have ensured that we had none.
“The new argument is that Castlereagh is a special isolated paradise of harmony, set amidst the division of the rest of Northern Ireland. The assertion that Castlereagh is ‘not a divided society’ is absolutely ludicrous.
“Perhaps he should try and tell that to the victims of the sectarian violence of the last 30 years who have lived and worked in our borough, and to the families of those who have been put out of their homes for objecting to sectarian symbols or because of paramilitary violence.
“He might also want to tell that to the latest victims of an attack motivated by sectarianism; a church group attending Dundonald Icebowl a fortnight ago. In addition, those funding peace schemes and community relations programmes will be interested by the comments of Mr Robinson, who seems to be suggesting that we have been taking money to heal our divisions under false pretences.
“My message is clear; if Mr Robinson thinks Castlereagh is united behind unionist discrimination, he needs to catch a grip.
“His comments show exactly how committed he is to power sharing. He will only do it if forced, as he believes that his “rules” are the best way of government. It really is time for the DUP to wise up.”