THE tail-end of Hurricane Katia battered the north coast on Monday of last week but in Ballycastle the rain and gale force winds were secondary to the storm brewing inside the chamber of Moyle Council.
A controversial proposal brought before members called for Independent Chairman and former Sinn Fein member Padraig McShane not to attend duties in his role in ‘minority areas’ of the district.
The motion tabled by TUV councillor Sharon McKillop stated: “That councillor P McShane relinquish the official duties expected of the Chairman in relation to the provision of representation on behalf of Moyle District Council in minority community areas and that these duties be assumed by the Vice Chair, councillor Sandra Hunter.”
In putting forward her proposal Cllr Sharon McKillop claimed Cllr McShane had contributed to a breakdown in community relations in the district following comments he made in the wake of the Twelfth of July parades in Ballycastle.
She claimed Cllr McShane was pursuing a political agenda in his role as Chair.
Referring to controversy when protests took place against Cllr McShane opening sports facilities at Bushmills, Cllr McKillop said the funds required to police any repeats of those scenes were a drain on the ratepayers of Moyle.
She also highlighted the negative press coverage in the wake of those events.
“I would argue the Chairman’s actions and words...are impacting adversely on the potential growth and prosperity of this area.”
Cllr McKillop added she had “no problem” with nationalist councillors representing the area and called for her council colleagues to “act in the best interests of all in the community” and support her motion.
Cllr Padraig McShane asked if Sinn Fein councillors were therefore welcome in Bushmills to which Cllr McKillop replied: “The TUV’s mandate has to be respected in this chamber.”
“How is this to be implemented?” asked the Chairman.
“Do you want to draw up borders, maybe shade them orange and green?
“Do you want to mark out streets I can’t go?
“What way do you see this working out?”
Cllr Sharon McKillop said: “The minority community, I am voicing what they have said to me.
“They have been deeply offended by your comments regarding the Twelfth and Gaza.”
The Chairman said: “I didn’t refer to the minority as moronic. I referred to individuals as moronic.”
He then held up a picture said to have been taken on the Twelfth in Ballycastle which showed an individual wearing a t-shirt which said ‘Our Orange Feet Marched Your Streets’.
The Chair likened the motion to apartheid, adding:
“It’s something akin to Alabama in the 50s what you are proposing here.”
SDLP councillor Donal Cunningham said the roles of Chair and Vice-Chair carried with them responsibilities. He said it is essential those individuals carry out duties across Moyle.
Cllr Cunningham said the motion, if passed, would promote the idea of a nationalist Chair for nationalist people and unionist Chair for unionist people.
He too likened it to apartheid.
Cllr Padraig McShane then attempted to move on after a seconder for the motion could not be found.
However UUP councillor Joan Baird wished to comment.
Having initially tried to move on again, Cllr Baird told the Chair: “I demand my right to speak.
“If you are gagging me that is very bad for democracy.”
She went onto say: “It is incumbent on every one of us in this council to promote good relations in this district.
“We can hold our heads high in Moyle because we have maintained good community relations.
“I would not want anything to happen to damage that now.”
The Chair replied: “Like yourself, you don’t want to be gagged, neither do I.”
Sinn Fein’s Cara McShane said: “The TUV are dinosaurs. Their bigoted and sectarian politics have no place in the north.”
Independent Colum Thompson said: “This proposal is nothing but naked sectarianism.
“I would like to put on record my total disgust at the proposal.”
UUP councillor Willie Graham said during his previous stints as Chair he could “go anywhere” in Moyle.
He told the Chair that with his comments on the Twelfth and Gaza he had caused offence.
“You have to grow up and move into this century Willie,” replied the Chair.
Cllr Padraig McShane then said: “I don’t think any other council in the north what accept this in this day and age and we have seen evidence of that with no seconder for it.”
In a statement released after the meeting Cllr Padraig McShane said: “I am delighted that all councillors rejected the motion from the TUV.
“It is clear that while councillor McKillop stressed it was only directed at me, she could not commit to supporting either Sinn Feín or Independent councillor Colum Thompson should they take the position of Chairperson in the future. This in itself reaffirms the unadulterated sectarian nature of the proposal.
“Likewise I am pleased that no councillors objected to comments I had made in relation to the Twelfth in Ballycastle. While they may have been uneasy, they withdrew any objections when faced with evidence of the T-shirts worn by bandsmen in Ballycastle.
“Not one councillor objected when I asked if the word, ‘moronic’ was an accurate description when highlighting the bandsmen who wore the T-shirts, not even councillor Sharon McKillop. I feel that councillor McKillop has helped to vindicate my position here tonight.
“I had concerns that the TUV tail was wagging the unionist dog so to speak, but those concerns were laid to rest this evening. The TUV have attempted to be a wrecking ball in terms of community relations since entering Moyle. They have failed and will continue to fail.
“I intend to continue to lead this council during my year in office. I also remain committed to the entire District and I look upon the position bestowed upon me with honour.”