Sinn Fein response over mayor Sean Bateson ‘highly offensive’

Sean Bateson
Sean Bateson

Sinn Fein has been criticised for its response to a motion of no-confidence in the mayor of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council over a controversial social media post.

Sinn Fein councillor Sean Bateson has faced calls to step down as mayor since August, after he paid tribute to hunger striker Thomas McElwee on social media, hailing him as “brave”.

McElwee, from Bellaghy in Co Londonderry, was arrested after a premature explosion in an IRA attack in 1976 which cost him the sight of one eye.

When he died on hunger strike he was serving 20 years for a Ballymena incendiary bomb attack in which 26-year-old Yvonne Dunlop was burnt alive in her clothes shop.

The DUP has submitted a motion of no-confidence in Mr Bateson, to be discussed at a special council meeting tonight.

A defiant response from his party attracted further criticism from the DUP.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “Sean Bateson will not be standing down.

“The hunger strikers are held in the highest of esteem across Ireland and internationally because of their bravery and sacrifice.”

The DUP group leader on the Causeway Coast and Glens council, Aaron Callan, said: “Sinn Fein has repeated the offence caused by councillor Bateson.

“We were hoping that Sean himself and Sinn Fein would reflect on the way they put across their comments. It was highly offensive to a lot of people who have been hurt and who have lost loved ones in the Troubles. That’s why we brought forward the vote of no-confidence in the mayor.”

He added: “The comments that were made were about someone who planted a firebomb, killing a young 26-year-old, in a shop — there was nothing to be glorified or brave in doing that.”