THE Chairman of Moyle District Council has signalled his intent to push ahead with his bid to get a ‘twinning’ arrangement up and running with Gaza.
Independent councillor Padraig McShane said: “It is my earnest hope that all the citizens of Moyle can be part of this wonderful Twinning initiative.”
Meanwhile, TUV leader and North Antrim MLA, Jim Allister, has called for the Department of the Environment Minister Alex Attwood MLA to intervene in Moyle District Council.
�The call comes after Mr Allister received details of an invitation sent by the Council Chairman to representatives of Gaza City Council.
Mr Allister has also said he had discovered that the invitation was sent without prior approval of Moyle Council and that the Chairman failed to seek advice from the Council Chief Executive.
Commenting on the invitation Mr Allister said: “Gaza is controlled by Hamas. Hamas internationally is an illegal organisation. The Chairman of Moyle Council not only failed to seek advice from the Chief Executive but he did not gain approval from Council colleagues with regard to his invitation to Hamas representatives.��
�“It is apparent that the Moyle Council Chairman is operating outside his remit and by his actions has mired the local Council in a matter of international politics.
�“Local Councils were established to debate issues of local concern and thereby improve the immediate local community not to undertake overt political projects at an international level, nor to waste ratepayers money on such.
“I have therefore urged the Minister responsible for Local Government to intervene in Moyle and remind the Council of their elected remit. I am also calling on the Local Government Auditor to investigate with a view to surcharging the Chairman for any unauthorised expenditure.
�“I strongly believe that the Council Chairman has overstretched himself and that his solo-run is in breach of the spirit of Local Government and probably the legislation that guides it.
�“The Minister must intervene and act swiftly to avoid tensions further escalating within the Moyle Council chamber,” said Mr Allister.
Councillor McShane said: “The press release from Mr. Allister is factually incorrect and it points to, what might be considered, shortcomings in his party colleague in Moyle as opposed to shortcomings in my position as Chairperson.
“My electoral credentials stand up to scrutiny in Moyle having topped the poll in consecutive elections in two electoral areas in the District. I take the slight on my position as Chairperson, as an attack on those who entrusted me with their vote, in both Ballycastle and the Glens.
“On the 27th of June, the Minutes of Moyle District Council’s meeting, clearly state that, I informed the Council of my intention to invite the Mayor of Gaza to visit Moyle and complete the Twinning Agreement. The minutes also state that all members were present including Councillor Sharon McKillop, Mr. Allister’s party colleague and fellow TUV member. His colleague never objected. No Councillors raised any objections. Furthermore, when the minutes were presented for adoption the following month, again no councillors raised any objections.”
Chairperson McShane went on to say: “Mr Allister informs us through this statement that we may not ‘engage in politics at an International level’. I would take this opportunity to point him in the direction of ‘The Local Authority handbook on International Relations’ by the Local Government International Bureau. Could I suggest a thorough read before Mr. Allister embarrasses himself further?
“Given his background in the legal profession, I am surprised that Mr. Allister accuses me of inviting Hamas representatives to Moyle. It indicates a lack of understanding with regards to the internal workings of Municipality of Gaza. Professionals from their chosen fields including a Doctor in Prosthetics, a University Lecturer and a Young teacher who has never been outside the Strip form the delegation.
“No one from Hamas, or any other political entity, received an invitation from Moyle. Those Councillors who voted in favour of the motion to Twin with the Municipality of Gaza Support a peaceful settlement in Israel/Palestine based on the principles of democracy and justice. I believe we maintain an independent position on internal politics within Palestine, favouring neither Fatah, Hamas nor any other Palestinian political organisation. Ours is a Humanitarian gesture to the people alone, evidenced by the calibre of the delegation we invited.
“I fail to understand why Mr. Allister is opposed to the Moyle Peace Park in Gaza, a family centre with a children’s Play Park! In the spirit of the new times we find ourselves in, I again offer Mr. Allister and his colleagues a meeting to discuss any perceived concerns. It is my earnest hope that all the citizens of Moyle can be part of this wonderful Twinning initiative.”