Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have paved the way for Easter Rising commemorations to take place in the borough.
Councillors agreed at the monthly meeting to form a working group to look at creating a “proportionate” commemoration programme for the Rising’s centenary.
A motion brought forward by Sinn Fein Cllr Michael Goodman, seconded by Cllr Annemarie Logue, created lengthy debate across the council chamber.
Cllr Goodman proposed that a working group be created to establish an Easter Rising commemorative programme and fund, to “commemorate in a dignified and inclusive manner the 100th Anniversary of the Rising through the organisation of events across the Borough”.
Cllr Goodman said the thinking behind the proposal was to “create better understanding”, adding the events of 1916 had consequences for both the nationalist and unionist communities.
Cllr Logue said that “other events have been recognised” and called for “parity of esteem and equality”.
She added that the idea behind the working group was to create something for interested parties such as schools and community groups who wanted to “celebrate the centenary”.
DUP councillors Philip Brett and Nigel Kells voiced concerns over the Sinn Fein proposal, and instead offered an amendment to the original motion.
Cllr Brett said the Sinn Fein councillor’s motion created “issues that could be of concern” and took exception to Cllr Logue’s description of “celebrating” the Easter Rising, saying it reinforced his concerns.
He pointed out that organisations wanting to commemorate the Easter Rising centenary could always apply for funding under the council’s Good Relations grant funding scheme.
Cllr Brett also highlighted that the Irish government had created a fund for events to mark the centenary.
Putting forward an amendment to the Sinn Fein motion, Cllr Brett called for council to instead note the centenary and highlight that funding is available to local groups through the Irish government’s fund.
His motion was seconded by Cllr Kells, but before councillors could vote on the amendment Alliance Alderman Tom Campbell said he hoped that something could be done to create agreement across the chamber.
He added that while he agreed with “most of the sentiments” behind it, he could not agree to the DUP amendment.
He added that while there was “little connection” between the borough and the Rising, there should be some form of commemoration for the centenary, adding it should be “proportionate” to the borough’s political make up.
Alderman Mark Cosgrove said it was an opportunity for learning and educating about the event, and added his backing to Ald Campbell’s comments, saying that a working group should be created that was representative of the “political make up of the residents of this borough”.
Cllr Noreen McClelland said she agreed with Ald Cosgrove’s sentiments about promoting learning and knowledge of the event.
“I think it’s important to learn about the history of the place we live,” she added.
Cllr Brett’s amendment was put to a recorded vote but was quashed by a 20 vote majority.
Ald Campbell subsequently put forwarded another amendment to the original motion, calling instead for a working group to be established made up of councillors and council officers to establish a “proportionate Easter Rising commemoration programme”.
SDLP Cllr Brian Duffin seconded Ald Campbell’s amendment saying it was an opportunity to promote good relations in the borough.
Ald Campbell’s amendment received the backing of the majority of the chamber, with only the 15 DUP councillors voting against it.
The amendment was then carried and agreed on by the council chamber, save for the 15 DUP councillors who voted against agreeing to.