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BBC NI's Tim Jenkins
talks to councillors about the decision to honour Mr Paisley
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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
Controversy over Paisley honour
Councillors voted to honour DUP leader
Councillors voted to honour DUP leader
The Democratic Unionist Party has denied that it will make its leader, Ian Paisley, a Freeman of Ballymoney to try to upstage John Hume.

Mr Hume, the leader of the main nationalist party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, was made a Freeman of Derry at a ceremony on Monday.

The DUP members of Derry City Council had opposed giving the honour to Mr Hume.

But leader of the DUP group on Ballymoney Council councillor Sam McConaghie said the council's plan to honour Mr Paisley was not connected to the Hume ceremony.

"I first asked the council to have it on April 17th, but because I had to give seven days notice, not counting weekends, we had to put it back.

"So it should have been a month ago. It had nothing to do with John Hume," he said.

The councillors passed the motion to honour Mr Paisley by a majority of 11 votes to two on Tuesday.

There was one abstention by an independent unionist.

'Blow to community relations'

Two SDLP councillors voted against the motion describing the vote as a "blow to community relations".

One SDLP member was absent from the meeting.

SDLP councillor Malachy McCamphill said his party objected to the second paragraph of the motion which praised Mr Paisley's "generosity and sense of humour".

"I have no problem with Ian Paisley as a constituency worker. He does his work as an MP and an MEP, and he goes to see anyone who calls him, irrespective of religion.

"But as MP for North Antrim he has many times made derogatory and provocative remarks about the Catholic population in the main nationalist areas," he said.

But DUP councillor McConaghie added: "There are many people who begrudge Dr Paisley many things.

"I mean, you take Dr Paisley or leave him. You either respect him or you don't like him at all. That is the type of man he is."

Mr Paisley was elected an MP in 1970, and an MEP in 1979.

The title of Freeman of the Borough of Ballymoney being conferred on Mr Paisley follows similar a honour to motorbike racer Joey Dunlop and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

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See also:

16 Mar 99 | Profiles
Ian Paisley: Ulster's No man
01 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Hume given freedom of Derry
21 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Neeson refuses hometown honour
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