Michael Kenwood (Local Democracy Reporter)
Belfast to formally mark Holocaust Memorial Day from this year
Belfast will formally mark Holocaust Memorial Day on an annual basis from this year.
Elected representatives from Belfast Council have agreed unanimously at committee level to light a flame on the front lawn of Belfast City Hall from dawn until midnight on Holocaust Memorial Day, from 2022 onwards.
Members of the Jewish community and other groups will be invited to take part in a short memorial service while the flame is lit.
The ceremony will be held this Thursday, January 27.
The decision came from a motion forwarded by DUP Councillor Dale Pankhurst. As well as the annual event the motion urges the council “recommits to vehemently oppose contemporary anti-Semitism, racism, and hatred in all its forms against Jews.”
It adds: “To that end, we request that the council makes this a public declaration and that a letter is sent to representatives of our Jewish brothers and sisters from the Lord Mayor reaffirming this city’s solidarity and commitment to stand with the Jewish people, both here in Belfast, and worldwide.”
SDLP Councillor Donal Lyons proposed an amendment for council officers to make a report looking at the council creating a permanent monument, possibly for the grounds of City Hall.
Councillor Pankhurst told the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee:
“We have an alarming amount of far right groups that are acutely antisemitic, and we have seen this in Belfast, where we have seen individuals do nazi salutes, which is absolutely appalling. I think this city should stand against it.
“Also there have been cases where Jewish graves in Belfast cemetery have been damaged, because they are Jewish. So the council needs to take a position on this with a public declaration that we are against antisemitism and that we reaffirm this city’s solidarity and committment to the Jewish people.”
Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl will host a virtual commemoration event, entitled “Confronting Hate: Lessons from Holocaust and Genocide Studies,” which will be streamed via Zoom from 12noon to 1.30pm on Thursday.