BY Peter Diamond | February 8 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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North Lanarkshire Council’s £500 award to Orange Order ‘a slap in the face’ for Catholics, says councillor

NORTH Lanarkshire Council’s decision to award £500 of taxpayer’s money to the Orange Order is a ‘slap in the face’ to Catholics in the area, a councillor has said.

Members of North Lanarkshire council voted to pay £500 towards a ‘civic lunch’ for members of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, who are marking their 150-year anniversary.

Jean Jones, provost of the Labour-led authority, insisted that there was a clear precedent and long-established history of the council recognising such events.

Other councillors have criticised the payment being made at a time when the authority is facing cuts of about £31 million.

SNP councillor Steven Bonnar, who attends Mass at St Columba’s Church in Viewpark, refused to support the proposal. He said: “While I will defend freedom of expression and therefore anyone’s right to march including that of the Orange Order or indeed protest against those same marches, I generally take the view the organisation is best ignored in this day and age and in a modern Scotland. However, to award council funds to the them is a slap in the face for Catholics in North Lanarkshire.

“The Provost cited precedent as a reason for giving the Orange Order funds because it happened in the past, but that needs to be challenged.

“It was once ‘precedent’ that the Catholic religion was outlawed in this country but that was challenged and changed for the better. As an elected member I believe it is my duty to speak out and say these ‘precedent’ views are outdated.

“It should not be acceptable to hand out taxpayers money to an organisation who is inherently anti-Catholic in belief.

“They also claim to have 50,000 members across Scotland so I’m baffled as to why each of them couldn’t ­contribute £1 and then have £50,000 to throw a party without touching public funds.

“My colleague Councillor Anderson made the point that the Orange Order are a political entity in Scotland for their role in campaigning during the 2014 Independence referendum. That is a fact.

“Therefore, public money shouldn’t be given to organisations that actively campaign in elections.”

Defending the decision, a North Lanarkshire council official said: “Through the year, the civic functions group receives requests from a wide range of local community organisations for support and civic recognition, and these are considered in line with criteria.

“This organisation, like many others, meets this criteria. In this case, council funds will be used only to cover the cost of the civic lunch, not donated to the applicant.”

 

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