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UUP veteran told to 'check your history books' over history of US Consulate in Belfast

Jim Rodgers said he fears the American Consul's office in Belfast could be removed if councillors turn down an invite to the White House. Picture by Philip Walsh

VETERAN Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers has been told to "check your history books" after suggesting the US Consulate office was only established in Belfast in recent years.

During a radio debate, Mr Rodgers appeared confused about when the American Consulate was officially set up in the city, also suggesting it had come from the work of Belfast City Council representatives.

The issues were raised during a discussion with the SDLP's Brian Heading who intends to table a motion at the council next week to decline an invite from Donald Trump to the White House.

Mr Rodgers criticised the move and attempted to highlight the importance of the US Consulate's office and his fears it could be removed.

"It took us many, many years to get an American Consul in Belfast and then a Consulate General," he told the Stephen Nolan Show.

"I know what that meant when it was set up, people previously had to get visas through various parts of England, the Republic of Ireland, I don't want that to happen."

In fact, the US Consulate General in Belfast was officially established in 1796 by the first American President George Washington.

Once based on Queen Street in the city, but later moving to Stranmillis Road, it is the second oldest continuously operating US Consulate in the world.

Mr Rodgers' comments were soon picked up by Mr Heading during the debate.

"The American Consulate in Belfast is one of the oldest consulates, I think if you check your history books it will go back to the early 19th (sic) century," said the SDLP councillor.

"It is one of the oldest in the diplomatic service for the United States, it just didn't appear over the horizon a few years ago and why people had to go to London to get visas to travel to the United States... they must have bypassed the consul in Belfast."

Mr Rodgers later told The Irish News that while he recognised the American Consulate had been set up in the 18th century, it "didn't have the real powers until the last 70/80 years ago".

"But at a stroke of a pen, Trump could decide we are removing the Consul General's office in south Belfast," he added.

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