The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, councillor Michelle Knight McQuillan, issued an apology to staff at the Loughanhill Depot last week, after a number of workers took offence at a post she had shared on her personal facebook page.
Some of the staff had called on the DUP woman, the first ever Mayor of the new Council, to resign as a result of her social media post.
The row kicked off when councillor Knight-McQuillan shared a black-and-white picture of a bin man, apparently from yesteryear, carrying an old metal bin on his back.
The text says: “I used to walk into your garden, take your bins and any bags and throw them into the wagon without a fuss. I whistled as I work and I always had a smile for you.”
A second, colour photograph, of a modern-day bin man, says: “I won’t take your bin if: it’s pointing the wrong way; it’s not near the wagon; the lid is sticking up a bit.”
The post adds: “I don’t smile very often and I’m only interested in clocking off.”
The internet meme has been circulating on Facebook locally for the past couple of weeks.
The images have since been removed from the mayor’s Facebook page, but copies of it were circulated to workers last week.
Speaking to The Times on Friday, the DUP woman explained that she had issued an apology via email to the staff on Friday morning, and added that she had offered to go and meet Council workers.
The Bann councillor revealed that when she took up her post as Mayor she asked if she could go out with the bin men, in order to get a feel for all areas of the Council structure.
“This was a post on my own private facebook page, “ she said.
“It was a private joke between me and an uncle of mine who used to be a bin man. I was recalling him coming back to my granny’s home after work black from the soot out of the bins, and him wearing a donkey jacket. I am hardly likely to insult members of my own family,” she said.
Explaining her interpretation of the post, the Mayor said: “My take on the post is that in today’s society we are bound by regulations.
“Nowadays people cannot get on with their work because of health and safety precautions.”
Councillor Knight McQuillan made it clear that there was ‘no malice intended’ by the post and added: “The Council staff at the Loughanhill depot are some of the most dedicated workers in Council.
“In one of my first radio interviews as Mayor I praised the technical and cleansing teams of Council.
“As someone who used to work in the health service I know the that these so-called lower services are vital to the smooth running of organisations. If they are not there, then the whole organisations fails.
“This post has been taken out of perspective, and I am more than happy to explain myself face to face with anyone that has taken offence by it.”
One staff member, who did not wish to be named told The Times: “We are very angry and very hurt about this post by someone in high authority.
“The bin men provide an important service in all weathers and in all conditions. They are the lowest paid Council staff, yet we have one of the most important jobs.
“We are already under pressure from our own Director over structural changes to the services we provide, and we rely on our elected representatives for their impartial support.”