Northern Ireland

Orlando shootings: Condolence letter row at Fermanagh and Omagh Council

A vigil in memory of victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, Florida Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many cities around the world held vigils and tributes in memory of victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, Florida

A Northern Ireland councillor has said she was "shocked and saddened" over a delay in sending a letter of condolence to victims of the Orlando massacre.

Forty-nine people were killed in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub on Sunday.

Josephine Deehan walked out of a meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in protest over the delay, according to the Impartial Reporter.

Ulster Unionist councillor Victor Warrington said the council needed to check "protocols" before it was agreed.

At a further council meeting, held 24 hours later, councillors discussed the matter again and this time they gave their consent for an official letter of condolence to be sent.

'Human response'

However, Ms Deehan said she was "disappointed" by the deferral and added the council had sent a message of sympathy to the victims of the Paris attacks last year without delay.

Speaking on the BBC's Talkback programme, she said: "In making this proposal I certainly had no idea that it would be a contentious matter.

"I really felt in my heart that we had to respond in a human way because of the scale of the event, because of the brutality of it.

"And I felt that the natural, human response would be to immediately and without delay, let the people of Orlando, the bereaved families and the injured people know that we are with them in their grief and that we wanted to express our outrage.

"And I felt shocked, disappointed and very saddened that we had to defer the matter," the Independent councillor added.

Image caption Independent councillor Josephine Deehan said she vehemently opposed a ban on condolence letters until the council drafts a policy on "which atrocities we could respond to"

Mr Warrington told the same programme that "all councillors expressed their sadness and revulsion at this act" during a meeting of the council's Regeneration and Community Committee on Tuesday night.

"It was resolved to refer the item to the following day to the Policy and Resources Committee, so we could look at the policies and protocols of such letters.

"So it wasn't a situation that we weren't in favour of sending a letter. At the Policy and Resources Committer the next day, it was decided to send the letter to Orlando."

'Hierarchy'

Mr Warrington told Talkback he had no personal objections to the sympathy letter, but because it was his first time chairing the committee he "wanted to be sure that we weren't contravening any of the policies or protocol of the council".

Ms Deehan said she "vehemently" opposed a later motion which said that no further letters of condolence would be sent until "the council had drafted a policy which indicated which atrocities we could respond to".

"I don't think there should be a hierarchy of atrocities," she added.

A number of cities around the world paid immediate tributes to the Orlando victims, including Belfast, where the council illuminated its headquarters in the colours of the rainbow flag and the US flag on Monday.

Image caption Belfast City Hall lit in the colours of the rainbow on Monday, a symbol used by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigners

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