Concerns raised over remarks in wake of attacks

Police forensic officers at the Probation Board offices at Crawford Square where a bomb exploded last month.
Police forensic officers at the Probation Board offices at Crawford Square where a bomb exploded last month.

The Mayor of Derry and Strabane has apologised if any offence was caused by a Facebook comment made in the wake of recent dissident attacks.

Mayor Elisha McCallion was questioned on the matter by DUP Councillor Maurice Devenney, shortly before he himself was cautioned by the Mayor over his use of ‘Sinn Fein-IRA’ at the same council meeting.

Standing orders were suspended to discuss the bombings and attacks at the monthly meeting of the full Derry City & Strabane District Council on Thursday afternoon following a proposal from Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin Campbell.

Colr. Campbell said that recent attacks on the Probation Office on Crawford Square and on the cars of his colleagues Colly Kelly and Sandra Duffy along with pipe bomb attacks in the Waterside and Strabane were preceded by the attack on Sinn Fein activist and community worker Sean McMonagle’s car.

Colr. Campbell said that this, in common with some of the other attacks, was carried out “in the dead of night by faceless people” and was witnessed by young relatives of those targeted.

He said that such attacks were an attack not only on the people, their families and the communities they represent, but also on democracy itself.

Derry City and Strabane District Council Mayor Elisha McCallion. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 01.04.15

Derry City and Strabane District Council Mayor Elisha McCallion. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 01.04.15

“It serves absolutely no purpose and I would be calling on those behind these attacks to desist immediately.”

SDLP Councillor John Boyle endorsed and backed Colr. Campbell’s sentiments.

He added that CCTV footage showed how some local people had missed being wounded or worse by a matter of seconds in some of the attacks.

He added that his own party colleague Patsy Kelly had also had his car attacked in Strabane recently.

Alderman Maurice Devenney. INLS1715-101KM

Alderman Maurice Devenney. INLS1715-101KM

DUP Councillor Maurice Devenney said he knew that there were some councillors who would refuse to condemn the string of attacks, including those at the army base in Caw.

He also questioned the wisdom of a particular comment made by Mayor McCallion in wake of the attacks, which he said was akin to ‘If the Brits can’t break us, I doubt they will’.

“Is that really a comment the Mayor of this city should be making when she is here to represent everyone?” he asked.

Colr. Devenney went on to say it was very lucky there was no-one seriously injured, and paid tribute to the British soldiers working with A.T.O. and warned that those responsible for the bombings would fail.

“Sinn Fein- IRA, looked where they have come from. They are travelling on a very, very good journey which I welcome,” he said.

Speaking from the chair, Mayor McCallion responded: “Could I just say I meant no offence and if anyone was offended I sincerely apologise.”

She added that when talking about language being offensive “It would do you well not be saying ‘Sinn Fein- IRA’ in every second sentence,” she told Colr. Devenney.

Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher said the council should be out engaging with people on the ground and claimed sitting around issuing condemnation was “of no value”.

Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly said no councillor wanted such episodes on their doorsteps, but warned that a precedent was being set as the only suspensions of standing orders in the new council had been exclusively for such incidents.

A proposal by Colr. Devenney that party leaders meet with the PSNI and engage with them in relation to such activity was backed by UUP Councillor Derek Hussey.