Vandalism claim in decoration row

Tempers flared in Limavady’s Council chamber on Tuesday night during a row about changes to the Mayor’s parlour, writes Sheena Jackson.

Mayor, Sinn Fein Colr Sean McGlinchey has painted one of the walls in a vibrant red and has adorned it, and the others, with artwork donated by community groups, including Limavady Special School Rossmar and deaf charity, Hands That Talk. The heavy mayor’s desk and chair have been removed from the room and a few extra chairs have been added. It is understood to be the first time in 15 years the parlour has been painted. The mayor has re-named the parlour as the community room, and opened it to the people of the borough and council staff to use. Last week all of the groups that donated artwork attended a thank you reception hosted by the mayor.

However, the re-branding has upset some members. “This has never happened in my time, and to go as far to remove signage is a step too far,” said TUV Colr. Douglas, who continues to display a Union flag on his desk at Council meetings in protest of the mayor. “I call it vandalism and I mean that.”

Colr. Douglas said there had always been a certain mystique for people invited into the Mayor’s Parlour and questioned would it remain given the name change change.

Vehemently defending his decision, Mayor McGlinchey refuted it was “vandalism” and said he met with Council’s Good Relations officer to discuss it. “This room represents all the communities and there are no Tricolours in there or Union Jacks. It’s free from all that. I’ve had a lot of comments from people saying well done,” he said and, addressing Colr. Douglas, he said: “All you do is sit and whinge and cry. You need to grow up. We have to move on.”

Defending the move, Sinn Fein Colr. Anne Brolly said: “It is the Mayor’s decision what goes into it during his year in office and it’s up to him to decide what to do with it. It is the people’s parlour and they are entitled to be there.”

Sinn Fein Colr. Brenda Chivers said the way the room was prior to the fresh coat of red paint was an embarrassment.

However, Colr. Douglas was not satisfied and said: “It was wrong of the mayor to vandalise the parlour and remove the sign off the door.”

DUP Colr. George Robinson said when he was mayor he had no hesitation about bringing community groups and family members into the room and “never did I think of taking down the sign” adding, “I just don’t agree with it.”

SDLP Colr. Michael Coyle said the many mayors in the borough all had their different outlook about how to engage with the public and everyone did a good job. He had no difficulty with the community room, adding: “It’s about how you deal with people and I’m sorry to hear we are getting into a debate again. I’m sorry to see we are going down this road again and I would appeal to elected members to work for the electorate rather than petty squabbling.”

UU Colr. Edwin Stevenson said when he was mayor and had people in the parlour it was seen as an honour and said the move had “lowered the status of this council”.

Mayor McGlinchey stressed the change was done to open the room to the community and said he did not intend to cause any disrespect to Council.

Chief Executive Liam Flanigan said there was nothing permanent to anything and pictures removed could be reinstated.