Fermanagh and Omagh District Council have voted to illuminate Enniskillen Castle and Strule Arts Centre to mark Pride Day.

Sinn Fein Councillor Glenn Campbell requested the move in his capacity as Diversity Champion, which passed comfortably after going to a vote.

It was agreed to aim for August 29 to coincide with Foyle Pride, the later date would allow more time as it may align with a socially distant event being organised.

Chief Executive Alison McCullagh advised council policy refers to lighting-up requests by charities or events organised by the council itself, directly or in partnership with others.

She added: “As this request is not from a charity, it will be up to council to determine its position on this.”

However, she stressed there was no difficulty in council itself taking this course of action, and this could proceed as a proposal which Councillor Campbell put forward.

Alliance Councillor Stephen Donnelly was “more than happy to second.”

He said: “While disappointing but inevitable with Covid, a lot of the celebrations planned for this year had to be cancelled. People had to think creatively about how it would be done. It’s enormously positive this can happen and it would signify our solidarity with LGBT residents in our district in their fight for liberation and equality.”

Independent Councillor Josephine Deehan thanked Councillor Campbell for his proposal adding: “It’s so important we as a council show our respect and support for members of the LGBT community.”

The decision was welcomed by Independent Councillor Bernice Swift who stated: “We need to be supportive because obviously, all lives matter.”

Democratic Unionist Councillor Mark Buchanan recorded dissent telling members: “I have a very faith-based view and I wouldn’t be in support. We are all democratically elected, and we hold our own views, but I will be opposing.” On behalf of the SDLP, Councillor Adam Gannon said: “Obviously we support this very important issue. A lot of people were very much looking forward to the event, and myself and other councillors were hoping to facilitate an Enniskillen or Fermanagh Pride, but that’s a project for next year. Hopefully council will get behind it at that time.”

Ulster Unionist Group Leader Councillor Victor Warrington pointed out whilst holding his own personal views and opinions, he was allowing his councillors to vote whatever way they wished, but he: “wouldn’t be in agreement.”

Supporting the move, Sinn Fein’s Councillor Siobhan Currie said it was: “Entirely appropriate the Diversity Champion can make requests of this nature and stand up for minority groups who may not have the confidence to come forward themselves.”

She also called for planning of events to involve the LGBT community and “that conversation happens in the future.”

Councillor Alex Baird didn’t stand against the proposal in principal but expressed concern that deviating from council policy, may set a precedent. Ms. McCullagh explained while the lighting-up policy is specific, there is opportunity for council to take a view in all matters, with a recent example of this being  the blue lighting in support of the NHS.

Independent Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, stressed the importance of council taking a strong position in defence of LGBT rights.

“There’s a lot of remaining homophobia and people can feel very isolated. It’s a genuine problem,” he said.

“Many, many people from that community feel threatened and it’s still a very difficult thing to have a Pride Day in Fermanagh. It’s no accident we are so far behind. It’s important we as a council, representative of the political spectrum, show our commitment.” The final contributor, Sinn Fein’s councillor Tommy Maguire said: “Slight concerns in referring ‘that’ community. I have family members of ‘this’ community who are of ‘that’ persuasion. I have no problem supporting them as individuals and their equality. It’s objectional some councillors feel they should be treated differently. We are all supposed to be democrats. If we believe in equality, everyone is equally regardless of sexual orientation. I certainly support the Pride movement. My family members are proud of themselves, and I am proud of them too.” The matter went to a vote passing 27 to six, with three abstentions.