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Portraits of former Mayors to be displayed in civic buildings but Council split by cost

Palace Demesne Armagh

Portraits of former Lord Mayors, Mayors and Chairmen are to be displayed in their respective civic buildings and reproduced in albums for display, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has decided.

The decision was reached following a proposal from UUP group leader, Alderman Jim Speers which was seconded by DUP group leader Alderman Mark Baxter at Council’s monthly meeting on Monday, April 24.

However, it was not unanimously supported, with the 14 members of the Alliance Party, SDLP and Sinn Fein all voting against the proposal.

At the meeting, members were told discussions had been held at a behind closed doors party group leaders meeting over what to do with the portraits from the three legacy councils – Armagh City and District Council, Craigavon Borough Council and Banbridge District Council.

According to the council’s deputy chief executive, Charlene Stoops, party group leaders were asked to obtain the views of their colleagues on the suggestion that an album of the relevant portraits be displayed in each of the three main council buildings, or for a wall mounted display of the relevant portraits to hang in the buildings.

“There are plans to continue with a digital copy of the legacy portraits but the particular options for consideration this evening are as follows,” said Ms Stoops.

“To produce an album containing copies of the portraits of the former Lord Mayors/Mayors/Chairmen of the three legacy councils, displayed at the Palace Armagh, Banbridge Civic Building and Craigavon Civic Centre. This would include the provision of an online archive of portraits available to the public.

“Or, provide a wall mounted display in each of the legacy Council buildings with a photo of each legacy Lord Mayor/Mayor/Chairman and a short inscription detailing their name and the years they held office.

“Irrespective of the option chosen, the original portraits would be offered to the families concerned.”

A report explained that if members chose to produce an album for display in each of the three main buildings, there would be a cost of approximately £600 plus VAT.

Costings have not yet been received for the wall mounted displays but according to the report, “it is not anticipated the cost would be significant”.

Alderman Jim Speers said he was glad to see the issue before the local authority as it was one he wanted to resolve before his time on the council came to an end and proposed that the council proceeds with both options.

“It is a reasonable, fairly unobtrusive thing that does not occupy a lot of space but it secures the history of not only the people involved, but the respective areas,” said Alderman Speers.

“I know different members have had slightly different views in relation to this but I would be mindful of encouraging members to remember this is the last meeting of this council and it certainly has been the tenor of our activity whereby we have tried to work our way through things in a positive and workmanship like manor.”

Seconding the proposal, DUP group leader, Alderman Mark Baxter said it was always agreed that something would be done with the portraits and told the chamber he was glad to see it being dealt with now.

While not revealing the exact reasons for his party’s objection to Alderman Speers’ proposal, Sinn Fein group leader, Councillor Liam Mackle said what was proposed was “not something we could support”.

“For reasons that were well rehearsed at party leaders meeting, the option of the wall mounted displayed is not something we could support,” he said.

“We favoured the digital archive and returning the portraits to the families so no, we would not agree to the proposal which is now double what was discussed at party leaders.”

Council’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Paul Greenfield reminded members that no matter what option is chosen the original portraits will go the families concerned.

Alliance Party group leader, Councillor Peter Lavery said he did not want “to get into a row over this issue” and promised to “temper my words for a change” but claimed the UUP “need to get their priorities straight”.

“Given the issue that is being raised and the situation Council is in, I think the proposal is unbudgeted and the more appropriate way to proceed would be the production of the album and digitisation of the records and giving the originals to the families,” he said.

“I believe this option recognises the legacy and history of the councils in a financially prudent way so maybe Alderman Speers could consider going down the album route option to get a bit of support.”

SDLP group leader, Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon told the chamber he was wary of the potential cost of this proposal.

“There was quite a discussion on this and it went to wall panels and the different options. Whilst the report details £600 plus VAT for the book option, it doesn’t state how much for panels or even if that is for one book or three books,” he said.

“Our own preference would be to continue with the proposal for the digital archive and return the portraits to the families.”

With the chamber divided on how best to proceed, Council’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Paul Greenfield but the decision to a vote.

The 20 DUP and UUP councillors present voted in favour of the proposal, along with Councillor Paul Berry, While the 14 Alliance Party, SDLP and Sinn Fein councillors present voted against it.

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