Accent row raised with Council Town Clerk

Councillor Jimmy Carr
Councillor Jimmy Carr

Sinn Féin has written to the chief executive of Derry City Council over the controversy surrounding comments made by SDLP councillor Jimmy Carr regarding a fellow councillor’s Scottish accent.

Councillor Paul Fleming has said his party have written to Sharon O’Connor to ask her to consider how Council should respond to colr. Carr’s comments when he called for subtitles when Scottish-born colr. Eric McGinley speaks.

The comments sparked controversy and led to the SDLP colr. issuing an apology. The SDLP also withdrew the party whip from colr. Carr and removed him as chair of the Council’s environmental services committee.

Colr. Carr had been due to chair the monthly meeting of the committee in the Council offices yesterday. He did not attend the meeting of the Council’s planning committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, colr. Fleming said; “We have submitted correspondence to the Town Clerk registering our concerns and seeking clarification on how Council as a corporate body need to consider how it should respond to these comments.

“Political life can at times be heated and controversial but there can be no excuse given which can explain away councillor Carr’s comments which were wilful, deliberate, insulting and damaging to the reputation of Derry City Council,” he said.

Colr. Fleming also said the SDLP’s response to the matter did not go far enough.

“Sinn Féin has little confidence in the ability of councillor Carr to fulfil his functions as a public representative. The apology issued and the subsequent disciplinary measures imposed are an exercise in damage limitation and do not reflect the seriousness of councillor Carr’s behaviour,” he said.

“For our part Sinn Féin is committed to working with all parties in Council to deliver a first class service to the ratepayers and citizens of the city and district and will do so in a courteous and respectful manner,” he added.

SDLP councillor Brenda Stevenson said the matter had been dealt with by her party and added that she did not see the need to involve the Town Clerk.

“I’m not sure where Sinn Féin are coming from on this issue.

“I’m totally unsure what Council as a corporate body can do. Councillor Carr made a mistake and it has been dealt with internally. Councillor Carr has accepted his mistake and taken his sanctions.

“It has been dealt with as we do within parties,” she said.

DUP alderman Maurice Devenney said; “I want to say on behalf of our party that we think what councillor Carr did was wrong but the SDLP have taken that on board and dealt with it.

“Hopefully this lays down a marker to all representatives to be careful what they say on these social networking sites.”

In the apology issued from the SDLP press office last Friday morning colr. Carr said he would apologise directly to colr. McGinley.

“I will be offering my apology in person to Cllr McGinley today,” the statement said.

However, it is understood that has not yet apologised in person to the Sinn Féin colr.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson confirmed ahead of yesterday’s meeting that no personal apology had been offered.