DUP Ald. claims Irish Unity working group cost ‘exploiting’ ratepayers
“Stop exploiting and ripping off ratepayers’ is what DUP Alderman Ryan McCready told Derry & Strabane Council colleagues when the formation of an Irish Unity working group was discussed this week.
Members of the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee were asked to endorse an initial approach to the establishment of the working group and an initiation meeting prior to the summer recess, to which all Members will be invited to attend.
Sinn Féin Councillor Conor Heaney welcomed the report tabled at the month meeting and ‘happily proposed’ the recommendation was accepted adding: “I’m looking forward to this extremely important working group getting up and running. It’s a good chance for this Council to start beginning to plan and consult with ratepayers and stakeholders.”
Ald. McCready however opposed the recommendation.
“Firstly, I am pro-union, I represent and speak for unionists and I believe that remaining part of the UK as Northern Ireland is the best course of action for our people collectively and our subsequent generations that follow,” he said. “Secondly, in a local authority where unionists are a significant minority and have been for quite some time, I find it deeply offensive and inappropriate for members of this Council to exploit and misappropriate the Council platform, employees resources and time in pursuit of a deeply divisive agenda on Irish unity.
“Thirdly, just let me be clear: Each political party has the freedom and platform, indeed a prerogative to pursue political aims, that’s fact, I do get it. However, it strikes me as an absurdity that this working group will be funded by our ratepayers and it is both inappropriate and unacceptable to me and my electorate who’s going to foot a portion of this bill.
“This was originally brought up and spoken by Member Heaney again today, a member of Sinn Féin. It is my humble suggestion and observation that it is the largest and reportedly in the Irish Times, the richest political party, not only in Northern Ireland but indeed the Republic of Ireland, with an extensive property portfolio boasting of in excess of 50 properties and 200 staff members.
“Lastly, my point is this, if Sinn Féin and others want an Irish unity working group then pay for it yourself and stop exploiting and ripping off ratepayers.”
SDLP Colr. Sean Mooney, seconding Councillor Heaney’s proposal said; “This is an issue that is coming to the fore and any evidence that can be gathered can only be a good thing and I would hope that all Members would come to and contribute to the group because all issues and all views are valid.”
Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly felt it was ‘unfortunate’ that unionist reps weren’t going to attend the working group: “I would like to see them at it and giving their views and thoughts, even if those views are fundamentally opposed. Let’s hear why they think we should remain part of the United Kingdom.”
Sinn Féin Derg Coulr. Ruairi McHugh said: “I welcome the establishment of the working group as an Irish republican, and the way we are going we are heading towards a reunited Ireland and I’m somewhat disappointed to hear Alderman McCready’s comments.
“Since he came into Council I thought he was in the more progressive or forward thinking wing of the DUP. For him to say ‘pay for it yourself’ is pretty pathetic.”
Members accepted the recommendation with nine votes for and four against.
By Gillian Anderson
Local Democracy Reporter