‘Sandcastle’ flag row halts council business

A mini flag described as being “like something on top of a sandcastle in Portrush”, forced yet another meeting of Limavady Borough Council to be adjourned last night.

The latest drama unfolded at the monthly council meeting when TUV councillor Boyd Douglas placed his party emblem on his desk in the chamber. The flag, measuring 1”x2.5” was stuck to the top of a stick inserted into a black plastic holder.

Unlike two previous monthly meetings which were disrupted when Councillor Douglas produced a Union flag, the TUV man said he had chosen to display his party logo, which features a small Union flag. He was asked to remove the emblem after a vote, but refused.

Councillor Douglas has staged a series of similar protests at meetings chaired by the borough’s Sinn Fein Mayor Sean McGlinchey, a former IRA prisoner who spent 18 years in jail for his part in a car bomb attack which killed six people in Coleraine in 1973.

After heated debate on Tuesday evening, the Mayor adjourned the meeting saying people in the chamber had the right to work in a neutral environment and the flags issue needed to be dealt with. He branded Councillor Douglas’s actions “childish” and accused him of being “provocative”, adding that the “days of the bully boy tactics were over”.

The five Sinn Fein councillors present subsequently left the meeting, which the Mayor adjourned until next Tuesday at 5pm.

Councillor Douglas remained with his display along with three SDLP, two Ulster Unionist and one DUP councillor. SDLP Councillor Michael Coyle suggested the meeting resume with a different chairperson, but that didn’t happen and councillors drifted home around 10pm.

The reference to the flag which caused the disruption of the monthly business being “like something on top of a sandcastle in Portrush”, was made by SDLP Councillor Gerry Mullan.

Councillor Douglas told the ‘Journal’ after the meeting: “I have been in council for 14 years and I haven’t had a difficulty until Sean McGlinchey was made mayor. I am opposed to that and the law needs to be changed that someone like him who has been involved in atrocities in the past can be made mayor.”

He added: “The only people that made Limavady look like a laughing stock were those who abandoned the meeting.”

Mayor McGlinchey said the adjournment - the third in as many months - was “very frustrating”.

“What Councillor Douglas is doing is an attack on me and my colleagues,” he said, adding: “There are legal proceedings ongoing and we will wait and see what happens.”

Earlier, councillors held a Support Services meeting chaired by Sinn Fein Councillor Tony McCaul without incident.