Belfast has a new Lord Mayor. And Nuala McAllister, an atheist, has started her new role by putting religious noses out joint.
When she was installed at an inaugual dinner last Saturday night, McAllister, according to this Belfast Telegraph report, didn’t invite anyone to say grace. This was seen by some as a dreadful departure from tradition.
The Alliance Party councillor felt some people attending the dinner who are not religious may have been uncomfortable with praying, but others have voiced firm opposition to her decision not to respect the decades-old convention.
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr Noble McNeely, above, who attended the event for the first time, said he led prayers at his table when it became apparent that it wasn’t on the agenda for the evening.
There was no grace on the programme and the Master of Ceremonies didn’t call anyone to lead the gathering in grace.
I’m sure Dr Laurence Graham (President of the Methodist Church in Ireland) or myself would have been prepared to say grace but that wasn’t requested. I don’t know why that didn’t happen but maybe it is a sign of the times.
Yes, Mr McNeely, face it: more and more people are are learning to live life without your irrational mumbo-jumbo so get over it, and get a proper job.
McNeely went on to blather that he believed:
It’s a good thing to give grace before dinner give God thanks for his goodness towards us and for the nourishment of each day.
I understand why people feel disappointment that there was no grace said as part of the proceedings on Saturday but we as ministers recognise it’s the prerogative of the host.
Oh, just listen to yourself, you arrogant old twat!
Free Presbyterian minister Rev David McLaughlin, above, said Ms McAllister’s decision to scrap grace was a “glaring omission”. The self-serving ju-ju merchant declared:
Saying grace at the Lord Mayor’s installation dinner is something that has been done by way of custom for the last 25 years.
I’m very annoyed at this very sad state of affairs; it’s a further indication of the erosion of the Christian heritage upon which this country was founded; indeed, it shows how far we’ve departed from our Christian heritage when we can’t even offer a simple thanks for food.
If she didn’t want to say grace then she should have arranged for someone else to do it or called upon a member of the clergy to offer a simple word of prayer.
And if you get told to get lost, take your complaint to Jesus. He’ll probably also tell you to sling your hook, you moron!
A City Hall source told the Belfast Telegraph that the decision had caused widespread anger among members across parties and had cast a shadow over the night.
Said the insider.
There is no doubting that this is an extremely delicate matter. Grace has always been said, even by Lord Mayors who wouldn’t darken the doors of a church or chapel.
Belfast High Sheriff Tom Haire said that while some guests were annoyed at the absence of grace, his table didn’t miss out, thanks to his neighbour, the foolish McNeely.
Our table did its own thing; we invited Rev McNeely to say grace so we weren’t put out in any shape or form. It was obvious, however, that some tables were waiting before starting dinner because they were expecting prayers as is the normal tradition.
Haire’s DUP colleague Aileen Graham said that, ultimately, it was up to the Lord Mayor whether to say grace or not.
Saying grace at the installation is a tradition and unionists have a very pro-grace attitude.
But at the end of the day, it was her night and you can’t force anyone to say grace if they don’t want to.
The SDLP’s Pat Convery, who was at the event, said the decision didn’t go unnoticed by guests on Saturday night.
It was noticeable that grace was missed out on this occasion but I have no doubt that the Lord Mayor gave this her consideration. Many people felt it would have been better with grace but it’s her choice.
PUP politician John Kyle said that “eyebrows were raised” at the “strange” omission.
It was a surprising break from tradition; if I had the honour of being Lord Mayor it’s something I would definitely do to set the correct tone for the evening.