Belfast Lord Mayor claims she's 'too busy' for St Patrick's Day meeting with Trump
Belfast's Lord Mayor has been accused of concocting the "mother of all fudges" after it emerged her diary is too busy for her to attend Donald Trump's St Patrick's celebrations next year at the White House.
Nuala McAllister was criticised during the September meeting of Belfast City Council last night in a debate over whether she should continue the tradition of previous Lord Mayors by attending.
SDLP councillor Brian Heading proposed a motion that Ms McAllister should not go to Washington.
"We cannot let the rhetoric of Mr Trump become the norm, we must stand together and challenge hate speech and actions, even if it is from the President of the United States," he told the council chamber - quoting Alliance leader Naomi Long from last November.
He added that "citizens and institutions of this council should have nothing to do with the White House" after Mr Trump was criticised for blaming left-wing protesters after violence - in which a young woman was killed - flared at an August rally against white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Mr Heading added: "I think Lord Mayor, that you are the person who can speak for us with one voice and take one action, and respectfully decline any invitation to the White House next year."
However, Alliance group leader on the council Michael Long questioned Mr Heading's motives, and asked why he hadn't brought the motion before the previous Lord Mayor Brian Kingston (DUP) when he visited the White House in March.
He told the chamber that Ms McAllister will not be attending the White House because her diary is full, and added that she had not received an invitation.
"All this could have been learnt if councillor Heading had simply spoken to the Lord Mayor beforehand," he said. "His failure to do so is less about making real change and more about self promotion and publicity seeking."
Mr Long clarified to the Belfast Telegraph outside the chamber that no invitation had come, and Ms McAllister has expressed a wish to attend an event in another part of the US where Northern Ireland has strong links, and to be in Belfast for St Patrick's Day itself.
Mr Heading's original motion fell after Mr Long proposed an amendment. Part of it stated that "the council condemns the recent comments made by President Trump regarding the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, their lack of clarity and his failure to condemn racist organisations such as the Klu Klux Klan and Neo Nazi gangs".
It was amended again by Mr Kingston to recognise strong links between Northern Ireland and the US. This was passed by 38 votes to 11.