Hundreds turned up at the Palace in Armagh to protest the decision to illuminate three civic buildings across the borough blue and white in solidarity with Israel.
It was the same in Craigavon as large crowds, draped in Palestinian flags, stood outside the civic centre with one message: ‘Not in my name’.
In Armagh, protestors hoisted aloft the Palestinian flag outside the Palace.
The decision to light up buildings in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon in the colours of the Israeli flag comes on the back of a motion brought forward by the DUP back in October, following the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7.
The motion passed by a slim majority – 21-20 – in favour of the two main Unionist parties, with the Lord Mayor casting the last – and decisive – vote. Sinn Féin, Alliance and SDLP voted against the DUP proposal.
Alliance had tabled a motion for buildings to be illuminated white for peace. This was not voted on as the first proposal passed with a majority.
In Craigavon, Sinn Féin councillor Mary O’Dowd – who was among the protestors – said: “We stood tonight to clearly signal that the people stand in solidarity with the men, women and children of Palestine.
“That we do not support the illegal and immoral occupation and bombardment of innocent civilians by Israel.
That we condemn the killing of civilians on any side in this conflict. And that the lighting up of the building tonight is not in the name of the people of this area and was opposed strongly by Sinn Féin.”
She added: “For weeks we have witnessed the horrific bombing of Gaza, the killing of thousands of innocent civilians and the flagrant disregard of international law by the Israeli Military in the name of so called ‘self-defence. Collective punishment of innocent civilians is not self defence. Targeting schools and hospitals is not self defence.
“A savage bombardment that has claimed the lives of other 6,000 children is not self defence.
“The world sees Israel’s actions for what they are; a blatant and barbaric violation of international law and we again call on the international community to ensure the human rights of every man, woman and child in Palestine are upheld.
“All acts of violence must end immediately and we repeat our call for the release of all hostages and for a permanent ceasefire to give space for peace talks to take place.
“The Irish government must lead the way in calling for an end to this horrific war and to begin the work to deliver a similar framework for a real and lasting peace, based on the creation of a viable Palestinian state and the ending of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israel.
“Until that day comes however, Ireland will continue to stand side by side with the people of Palestine in their journey for freedom, for independence and for peace.”
Alliance Councillor Peter Lavery said he was “disappointed the UUP and DUP have pushed ahead with the lighting of civic buildings in the colours of Israel only”.
“An Alliance Party proposal to light civic buildings white as a symbol of our collective desire for peace in Israel and Gaza was defeated.
“The October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas was wrong and the escalation of the situation since has resulted in thousands of lives lost, many of whom were children.
“My thoughts are with all of the victims of the conflict in Israel and Gaza, and I hope for a cessation of violence and the protection of the lives of innocent civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian.”
SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon added: “I voted against this proposal and this is #NotInMyName. All right thinking people have condemned the slaughter of innocent people in Gaza and Israel.
“The scenes over the past number of weeks have been and continue to be horrific. The stories coming out of both Israel and Gaza are heart-breaking, innocent men, women and children are being slaughtered in their homes, families are being ripped apart, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in fear.
“By council lighting up its Civic buildings in the colour of the flag of one nation in this bitter conflict gives the impression that the council has taken an informed and nonpartisan position. It hasn’t. This is oul Northern Ireland politics playing out at its worst.
“It also says that the council and all our people support the actions of Israel, which has included the indiscriminate bombing of civilian locations, hospitals and the ordering of hundreds of thousands to leave their homes. We don’t.
“The Israeli government have refused to hear the pleas for humanity and peace, they have turned off food, water, fuel and energy supplies. What innocent people they do not kill with bombs and missiles, they are starving to death.
“The actions of Hamas have also to be absolutely and unequivocally deplored, I condemn the murder of innocent Israeli civilians, including young people at a concert, the kidnap, rape and torture of people in southern Israel.
“On this island, know more than most the heartache, pain and deep-rooted scars of conflict and injustice. There are no words that can adequately express what the people of the Middle East are going through right now. They are being caught up in a war not of their making.
“So instead of lighting up buildings in the colour of one nation in this bitter conflict, I support calls for peace and an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. Bloodshed is not now and never has been the answer, either here or anywhere else in the world.
“Today, I spoke to people in our community who have lost loved ones in Gaza, to say they are angry, hurt, disappointed and disgusted in this decision is an understatement. One question they asked rings through my head, ‘have they no humanity, have they no conscience’.”