The Alliance Party group on Newtownabbey Council has claimed that any attempt by the DUP to alter future decisions made by the council’s artistic board would amount to “censorship by the back door.”
The board of 17 elected and independent members is responsible for deciding the programme of shows and events for the borough’s two theatres - The Courtyard and Theatre at The Mill.
Speaking after Monday night’s full council meeting, during which a majority of members voted for a DUP motion calling for a review of the board’s decision-making procedures, Councillor John Blair said: “I am disgusted at how this issue descended into a complete farce, but at least the play has now been given the go-ahead, despite attempts by the DUP to block it.
“As councillors we are here to serve everyone in the Newtownabbey borough, not adhere to the religious views of some councillors at the expense of freedom of choice for the wider community.
“The DUP may have attempted to blame everyone but themselves for this situation, but the public aren’t stupid. It is clear to everyone that this situation was brought to a head by those determined to let their own personal viewpoint get in the way of objective thinking.”
Councillor Billy Webb, chairman of the artistic board, added: “As an Alliance Party councillor I was extremely saddened by the decision to cancel the play. DUP members were clear in their threats that the artistic board would be overstepped and the play cancelled no matter what - proving that party’s determination to ignore democracy and censor large sections of our society.
“After receiving further advice the board was thankfully in a position to reinstate the play.
“The DUP’s attempts to undermine the artistic board further with a proposal focussing directly on its operations amounts to nothing more than censorship by the by the back door. This will not be tolerated.”