Call to ‘end sectarian, illegal and anti-social activity in Borough’

Riada House, Ballymoney
Riada House, Ballymoney

A motion ‘that Ballymoney works effectively to end sectarian, illegal and anti-social activity within the Borough’ has been deferred once again.

The notice of motion by Cllr Philip McGuigan was presented at a Council Meeting on the 4th August 2014 and

stated: “That Ballymoney Council works effectively to end sectarian, illegal and anti-social activity within the Borough. That Councillors recognise their responsibility and support the efforts, through their words and actions, of council officers and other statutory organisations working to end the illegal burning of tyres on bonfires, the promotion of hate crime, the placing and/or removal of cultural flags and symbols in an act meant to intimidate or cause offense.

That this Council recognises the damage that these activities do to community relations and also the financial cost to ratepayers.”

However it was referred by the Mayor, without discussion, to the Leisure and Amenities Committee as Good Relations falls under Leisure Services.

Addressing the motion at the Leisure and Amenities Committee meeting, Cllr John Finlay proposed, seconded by Cllr Ian Stevenson, that the motion be referred to the actual Good Relations Sub-Committee instead.

However, Cllr McGuigan referred to his motion, which had been submitted in accordance with Standing Orders, and disagreed that a proposal could be made before he had had an opportunity to speak in support of it. He indicated that he would be happy for the meeting to be adjourned to enable the Chair to clarify the Standing Order which permitted him to do so.

Cllr Finlay requested it be recorded that he was against the decision to allow Cllr McGuigan to speak on the motion and would be seeking legal advice if his proposal to defer the issue to the Good Relations Committee was ruled against.

The Director of Central and Leisure Services indicated that the motion had been referred to the Leisure and Amenities Committee and under Standing Orders it is to be discussed at this Committee.

Cllr Stevenson concurred with Cllr Finlay’s view that the Good Relations Committee which falls within the remit of Leisure and Amenities would be the appropriate place to deal with the matter.

Alderman Frank Campbell permitted Cllr McGuigan to speak on his motion.

Speaking in support of his motion, which had been made as a result of an incident in July and in response to a query from a journalist who had asked ‘Would Councillor McGuigan condemn the action of a flag being displaced?’, Cllr McGuigan stated that in Finvoy a flag had gone missing but there were 30 other flags still in place.

He continued: “There were no concerns raised about flags in Dunloy or Loughguile which were stolen or burned. I will try and be genuine, fair minded and balanced as I believe that any acts of sectarianism should be condemned regardless of where it comes from.

“As a Council we have a Bonfire Committee and Health & Environmental Services Committee who do good work with other statutory agencies in trying to reduce the effects of bonfires, some of which are Sectarian in nature in terms of flags, symbols, emblems and posters which are displayed for weeks before the 12th July. I believe that the Council should have some kind of moral authority on this issue. Some Councillors said these are just harmless fun but I believe they are not. Officers and agencies are trying to bring about a resolution and this Council should send a message against sectarianism, from wherever this is received. The other issue is about burning tyres which should be stopped as it damages community relations and has financial implications for Council in clearing up. They are dangerous and need to be recognised as such. Antisocial groups that are engaging in this are going to continue if they see in the papers that it is acceptable and no one should be saying it is acceptable.”

Cllr Finlay reiterated his view that his motion should have been taken and that in not doing so, a fundamental mistake had been made under Standing Orders and he will be seeking legal advice.

Cllr McGuigan disputed that and requested Cllr Finlay to advise which Standing Order he was referring to. He stated that he felt he was giving a balanced statement and urged Council to support his motion.

It was proposed by Cllr Stevenson, seconded by Cllr Halliday that the motion be referred to the Good Relations Sub Committee.

Cllr McGuigan requested a recorded vote: For (8) Cllr Blair, Ald Kennedy, Cllr McLean, Clr Finlay, Cllr Stevenson, Cllr Halliday, Cllr Robinson and Ald Campbell, Against (4) Cllr McGuigan, Cllr McLaughlin, Ald Connolly and Cllr Cavlan.

The Chair declared the motion carried.