By Eoin English, the
A Fianna Fáil councillor has called for the removal of the LGBT community’s rainbow flag from above Cork’s City Hall ahead of next week’s referendum.
Terry Shannon sparked a row last night when he asked council chief executive Ann Doherty to remove it, citing fears that it could send out the “wrong message” before the nation votes on the marriage equality referendum.
“If there was no referendum, I wouldn’t have an issue,” he said. “But I think, on balance, it shouldn’t be flying for the duration of a referendum.”
The city council made history last year when City Hall became the first civic or public building to fly the rainbow flag for the city’s LGBT Awareness Week.
The flag was flown from the civic building again at 12pm yesterday to mark the start of the city’s fifth annual LGBT Awareness Week. In a co-ordinated move, several rainbow flags were flown from community buildings at the same time.
The council hosted the formal launch of LGBT Awareness Week in City Hall at 5pm but when the council convened for its regular Monday meeting minutes later, Mr Shannon spoke out.
Speaking afterwards, he told the Irish Examiner's Eoin English: “As the standard bearer for the yes campaign, I think it’s inappropriate for [the flag] to be flying over City Hall. If someone put up a no flag, I’d disagree with that as well.
“I believe, as a corporate body, we should not have a flag like that hanging over City Hall while the referendum is on Either we put up two flags or we take this one down.
Former lord mayor and current Fine Gael councillor John Buttimer defended the flying of the flag, saying it is part of a series of events marking LGBT week.
“We got the flag as a gift from our sister city San Francisco during my term as Lord Mayor,” he said.
“Cllr Catherine Clancy was the first to fly it because I got it after LGBT week in my term.
“Cork City Council also passed a motion in support of the referendum.”
Anti-Austerity Alliance councillors Mick Barry, Lil O’Donnell, and Marion O’Sullivan said they would oppose any attempts to remove the flag from City Hall.
The theme of this year’s LGBT Awareness Week is ‘Equality Matters’. Events are lined up to raise awareness about how gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people form part of the fabric of every walk of life in Cork.
“Equality matters to everyone and impacts on everyone,” said Siobhan O’Dowd, chair of Cork’s LGBT Interagency Group.
“A diverse and equal city benefits all of us: Residents, citizens, communities, agencies, businesses, and public services.
“Just as equality affects us all, so too does homophobia harm us all so in 2015 we want to say that equality matters, to everyone and for everyone.”