‘Peace pact’ follows fiery verbal volleys

AN informal ‘peace pact’ has been signed up by Moyle councillors following the firing of some fiery verbal volleys in the Sheskburn House council chamber in Ballycastle, writes Nevin Farrell.

All councillors present at a meeting in Ballycastle last week agreed to a motion calling for public representatives to speak with a civil tongue to each other.

The councillors have signed up to an understanding that they should not use “unparliamentary” language nor be derogatory towards each other or swear in the Sheskburn House council chamber.

Although Moyle Council meetings are, on the whole, largely pleasant, on occasions there are feisty flare-ups.

It has been alleged in recent times that remarks uttered in the chamber have included phrases like “w**kers”; calling someone a “tramp”, reference to somebody allegedly being a liar and telling another councillor they “don’t know what they are talking about”.

And the finger of blame is largely being pointed at one specific place in the chamber.

At the main monthly meeting of the Council on February 11, DUP councillor Robert McIlroy said enough is enough and something needs to be done to make the meetings more civilised.

He said at a previous meeting he “felt very uncomfortable” in the Council chamber because of the moments of strife and he said Traditional Unionist Voice councillor Sharon McKillop often seems to be under verbal attack.

Cllr McIlroy said he would like to see the Council being a “more respectful place for councillors” and he said Cllr McKillop should be getting an apology for the way she was treated.

Cllr McKillop then proposed that the Council does not tolerate the use of “unparliamentary language”, “derogatory remarks” or “swearing” and she said the Council should be allowed to take action to exclude guilty parties from the chamber.

Cllr Willie Graham (Ulster Unionist) said: “In my time in this Council lately it has been terrible ... the amount of abuse has been thrown at the Unionist councillors from the other side of the table”.

He added: “It is not fair and it needs to stop”.

Cllr Joan Baird (Ulster Unionist) said certain councillors should not be behaving like school-children by name-calling and she said they should be more respectful of each other.

She said they should be able to use sensible language towards each other because she said name-calling leads to an “oppressive” atmosphere.

Cllr Randal McDonnell (Independent) agreed.

Cllr Padraig McShane (Independent) said he supported councillors being civil to each other.

Cllr Seamus Blaney (Independent) said the way he liked to do things is that when the meeting is over he can still walk out the door and still talk to councillors regardless of the debate inside the chamber.

Council Chief Executive Richard Lewis said the Council has no power to exclude councillors from meetings but he said meetings can be suspended for a time to calm things down if needs be.