Sparks Fly In Council Chamber As Reilly Opposes SDLP Proposal To Invite Pope To Down

The Newry Mourne and Down Council chamber was red hot on Monday evening as Councillor Terry Andrews (SDLP) presented his proposal to the meeting to effectively extend a welcome to Pope Francis to South Down and to tred in the footsteps of St Patrick during his visit to Ireland in the near future.

[caption id="attachment_59796" align="alignleft" width="225"]Pope Francis. Pope Francis.[/caption]

An amendment from Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown suggesting that Kilbroney Park be a suitable venue was agreed and he accepted the spirit of the motion.

However, Unionist councillors either abstained or voted against the motion on ‘theological grounds’.

During the discussions, Independent Unionist Councillor Henry Reilly argued vehemently against the motion and ended his condemnation of Terry Andrews’s proposal by calling councillors not supporting his position  “rotten hypocrites“. But despite the heated exchange, Councillor Terry Andrews still saw the debate as “very positive”.

Councillor Reilly said: “Councillor Terry Andrews of the SDLP had a notice of motion before council on Monday evening requesting that the Pope visit Newry, Mourne and Down Council area during his visit in the near future. I fundamentally disagreed with him.

In addressing the councillors in the chamber, Councillor Reilly said: “There are many intolerant and sectarian people who condemn the Pope. Those people are the liberals and the metropolitian elite who have no time for his views on gay marriage and gay adoption.

[caption id="attachment_56185" align="alignright" width="260"]Independent Unionist Newry Mourne and Down Councillor Henry Reilly.  Independent Unionist Newry Mourne and Down Councillor Henry Reilly.[/caption]

“The Pope recently said: ‘It is God’s dream for his beloved creation of marriage to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a women… the true meaning of the couple and human sexuality is between one man and one woman‘. He later went on to suggest that he would support laws that would ban gay marriage.

“On the issue of gay adoption the Pope said that ‘children need hetrosexual parents, the differences between a man and a women are a fundamental and integral part of being human, only hetrosexual marriage can ensure family happiness and is essential for good parenting.’

We are indeed in strange times when I as an Mourne Orangeman have more in common with the Pope than the SDLP, Sinn Fein and Independent Nationalist Councillors who are supporting this motion tonight.

“It is a fact that you all believe the direct opposite of what your religious leader believes, and the motion is therefore a sham and I will be opposing it.

“You are all token Catholics and indeed heathens and this motion is only being presented to assuage and smooth your guilty consciences and mitigate your guilt for supporting what you all know to be wrong. You continually refer to St Patrick and wanting the Pope to walk in his footsteps, the fact is that St Patrick brought a simple Christian faith to our shores and the scriptures he brought here teach us the opposite of what you all believe and try to promote in this chamber on marriage and other aspects of life.

“My beliefs do not concour with the Pope on many issues of faith but I respect civil and religious liberty. However, it is clear to me that you only want the Pope here as a trophy. I am completely opposed to such a sham You are rotten hypocrites and I will be voting against the motion and call for a recorded vote.”

Henry Reilly added after the debate: “I voted against the motion as did three other Unionist Councillors with three Unionist councillors abstaining. All the Republican, Nationalist and Alliance Councillors voted in favour of the motion.

“I am deeply concerned about the future of Christian Europe as a whole and when you hear of Christian churches in Germany removing their crosses because they felt it offended members of the Islamic faith, then we really need to ask some fundamental questions as to what is going on across the board. Our Christian faith is being seriously challenged and you just have to look at what is happening in Sweden when there is a growing national reaction to the incursion of migrants from Africa and the Middle East to understand that there is a broader picture to all of this.”

The motion by Councillor Andrews was passed by a majority and he said after the meeting: “It was a good debate with many councillors participating in a dignified manner and I fully accept the various points-of-view including Henry’s.

“This debate would not have been so civil thirty years ago so we have made progress in this area in Northern Ireland and that is a win for local democracy.

“Events have moved on in the world. The queen has even come to Dublin and laid a wreath. Globally, St Patrick is seen as one of the main founding fathers of Christianity in Europe and I believe that it would be right and fitting that Pope Francis be invited to tred in the footsteps of St Patrick during his visit and possibly visit one of the historic Christian sites where St Patrick promoted his version of Christianity for all people.”