Councillors among first to back Catalans

Catalan independence vote.
Catalan independence vote.

Republican members of Derry City and Strabane District Council united to formally backed Catalan independence less than 24 hours before the Catalan Parliament ratified President Carles Puigdemont’s declaration of autonomy on Friday.

A proposal by Sinn Féin Councillor Caoimhe McKnight “that Derry City and Strabane District Council writes to the British and Irish governments asking them to formally recognise the democratic outcome of the Catalan Independence Referendum, condemns the brutality of the Spanish police and calls on the Spanish Government to respect the democratic wishes of the Catalan people as expressed in the referendum”, was backed by republican councillors.

Colr. McKnight said the motion would demonstrate solidarity with the people of Catalonia, who in turning out to vote in their independence referendum on October 1, in spite of a “full-frontal attack by the Spanish authorities”, had been inspirational. Independent Colr. Paul Gallagher who donned a T-shirt emblazoned with the Catalonian separatist flag, the ‘estelada’, hailed the Catalan people’s discipline and courage and expressed concern Spain might move to establish “tyranny” in the region in defiance of the democratic wishes of the people there.

Unionists tried to block the move with Alderman David Ramsey suggesting it was in breach of the council’s Standing Orders, which demand every motion is “relevant to some matter in relation to which the Council has power or duties; is not prevented from taking action on by other legislation; which directly affects the local government district or its residents; and for which the Council is legally competent.”

But senior city solicitor, Philip Kingston, said its was standard practice for the council to take a broad and flexible view when it came to motions and that writing a letter to the British and Irish governments, met all of the Standing Order’s criteria.

An SDLP amendment that the council instead “condemns the brutality of the Spanish police”, backs “the right of self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter”, and supports “the right of Catalonia to have a full and fair independence referendum”, fell.