Armed Forces Day could soon be celebrated in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough after Council agreed to register an interest in hosting the event in the Borough in future.
An Ulster Unionist motion which will see council register its interest in bringing the large-scale event to the area for the first time.
Despite a majority vote, there was some disagreement to the motion – notably from Sinn Fein who opposed it from the outset.
Speaking on behalf of the ABC council team Sinn Féin Group Leader, councillor Darren McNally, said: “It will come as no surprise that the Sinn Féin team on ABC council opposed this motion.
“We outlined our reasons for opposing this motion making it clear that, should the council pursue this course of action, it will cause significant hurt and distress to families across this Borough.
“The track record of British soldiers here in the north is not something many of our ratepayers would want to see celebrated.”
UUP councillor Glenn Barr, who proposed the motion, said: “2018 will see Armed Forces Day celebrate ten years of supporting the Armed Forces Community, from serving personnel and reserves to veterans, cadets and families.
“The UK Armed Forces defend the UK and its interests.
“They are busy working around the world, promoting peace, delivering aid, tackling drug smugglers, providing security and fighting terrorism.
“Here in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough council we aren’t strangers to hosting high profile, large-scale outdoor events and it’s important never to underestimate the value of being culturally ambitious.
“Hosting the likes of Armed Forces Day will bring more people into the Borough, which in turn boosts the local economy as money is spent in areas such as retail, leisure, bed nights and tourist attractions.
“And then of course there is the pride and feel-good factor felt by people who live and work in the borough – it would be a coup for their home Borough to stage an event of this calibre and the positive response this generates is priceless.
“My personal preference would be Banbridge, however, I am open to ideas.”
Councillor Barr added: “The Ulster Unionist Party recognises the sensitivities surrounding such a bid, this has not been brought forward to offend anyone, but purely for tourism and support.
“I am delighted that the Council supported this motion, and I hope that the Council can make a successful bid to host Armed Forces Day in the future.”
Councillor Julie Flaherty, who supported her party colleague’s call, said she was “more than happy” to second the proposed Notice of Motion.
“Armed Forces Day has become a prestigious annual event for those Councils who are selected to host,” she said.
“I felt that it was right and proper for our Council, the second largest outside Belfast to, at the very least, submit a letter of interest with the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for Northern Ireland.
“This is simply a matter of the Council sending a letter to register an interest in hosting the event.
“We have to think bigger and better for our Borough. New ideas are needed. Standout events are required and we have time to make this special for those who want to show their support.”