Colum Eastwood contrasts Derry’s spirit of political power-sharing to Ballymena
Foyle MP Colum Eastwood has contrasted power-sharing between nationalists and unionists in Derry with Ballymena where, he pointed out, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council hasn’t had a ‘nationalist mayor or deputy mayor since its inception’.
The SDLP leader made the claim during a debate on the Identity and Language (NI) Bill at Westminster.
He was speaking after the DUP MP for North Antrim Ian Paisley referred to the Irish language origins of Ballymena (An Baile Meánach – meaning the ‘middle town’).
Mr. Paisley said he embraced ‘diversity’ and that he was aware of the Irish meaning of the name of his North Antrim constituency’s main urban centre.
“Ballymena in my constituency is the middle town—the middle place—in the area. That is what it means: the middle part. I embrace those things as they are part and parcel of the identity of our culture and our country,” he said.
Responding to the DUP MP, Mr. Eastwood welcomed his support for diversity.
However, he told MPs that he believed this has not yet been extended to political power-sharing between unionists and nationalists in the North Antrim constituency as has been practised for decades in nationalist majority Derry.
"The hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) talked about embracing diversity. That is wonderful language. In Derry, since we got rid of the old Derry Corporation, we got proper democracy into local government after the civil rights movement, and we have been embracing diversity in Derry.
"We have all the old Unionist and British symbols still up in the Guildhall. We have added new ones that represent other traditions, such as the one that I represent. We have also done power sharing since the beginning of that council’s inception.
"The SDLP party had the most seats, but we had a Unionist deputy mayor and we had Unionist mayors over many years. The council in the area that the hon. Member for North Antrim represents has not had a nationalist mayor or deputy mayor since its inception.”
Mr. Eastwood was referring to the fact that since its establishment in 2015 Mid and East Antrim has never had a nationalist mayor or deputy mayor.