An independent Councillor has rejected claims he was making anti-unionist remarks after he called for a trade impact study on the burning of the Lundy effigy each December in Derry.
Councillor Gary Donnelly caused outrage among unionist representatives after referring to the effigy as an “oversized doll” at Thursday’s meeting of the Full Council in the Guildhall.
He made the remark following a presentation at a recent council meeting around the issue of bonfires in the city.
During the earlier meeting, City Centre Manager Jim Roddy and representatives from the PSNI, Fire & Rescue Service and the Housing Executive delivered a presentation which included details of a survey of residents in the Bogside about bonfires in their area. The results were that the majority of the residents did not want them.
Following on from concerns over another bonfire lit in Strabane beside a beacon to mark the Queen’s birthday last week, Colr. Donnelly queried the focus at the earlier meeting on the former bonfires at Meenan Square, next to an electricity substation.
He pointed out that a lot of groundwork went in last year to ensure the Bogside bonfire was relocated to a safer site below the City Walls.
He added; “On one of the busiest shopping days of the year thousands of adults gather and they cheer the burning of an oversized doll, to the detriment of the city centre traders who are already on their knees.”
He then added: “Is Mr Roddy doing a survey of city centre businesses to see if they are favour of the burning of this over-sized doll?”
DUP Councillor Drew Thompson said this was the “second time he has insulted the unionist people”, following previous comments relating to the Queen and her birthday fire beacon.
“He has insulted the unionist people and the Apprentice Boys,” Colr. Thompson claimed.
UUP Councillor Derek Hussey congratulated the General Committee of the Apprentice Boys of Derry for the way they have “changed the whole ethos around the December celebrations”.
He said that there was an economic spin off during the parades from people bringing their families and shopping in the city.
“It’s different from quite a few years ago when they would have been basically bottled,” he said.
Colr. Donnelly said he did not intend in any way to upset unionists and said he had actually retrieved an Apprentice Boys flag from a bonfire and returned it to St Columb’s Cathedral on one occasion.