A meeting of Limavady Borough Council was halted amid dramatic scenes last night after a unionist councillor erected a Union Jack in breach of the council’s no flags policy. Sheena Jackson reports.
TUV Councillor Boyd Douglas placed the mini flagpole in front of him as the Council’s recently elected Sinn Fein Mayor Sean McGlinchey - a former IRA prisoner - prepared to chair his first monthly meeting.
Mayor McGlinchey immediately said the chamber should be free of flags. He said he was “here to be fair and do business” and asked Councillor Douglas to remove the flag which he’d stuck to the desk.
Sinn Fein Councillor Anne Brolly said the chamber was a neutral environment and proposed the flag should be removed.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted for the flag to be taken down while unionists voted for it stay.
Councillor Douglas refused to remove the flag and referring to the Mayor’s IRA past, saying: “I will fly the flag of this country. The flag will stay.”
After a five-minute recess, Mayor McGlinchey said he was adjourning the meeting until next week and was seeking legal advice. He said he would not let the act turn the council into a joke, adding: “We came here to do work.”
Ulster Unionist Councillor Edwin Stevenson said Colr. McGlinchey couldn’t make that decision, and made a disparaging comment about the Dungiven Sinn Fein councillor.
Councillor Brolly hit back saying she was “grievously insulted” at what Councillor Stevenson had said. ”This is a legal matter,” she said. “We are all accountable for our words,” she added.
SDLP Councillor Gerry Mullan said he was deeply disappointed at the behaviour which he blasted as “petty point scoring” and said two major pieces of work he had to bring up would be put on the back burner. He pointed out that members had missed a health presentation from a representative of the Patient and Client Council, who had travelled to Limavady to address the meeting.
Unionists proposed that the meeting continue, at one point saying the SDLP deputy Mayor should step in and chair the business but Councillor Brolly said: “Get the flag down and business will be done.”
However, it was agreed to adjourn the meeting until next Monday at 7pm.
Mayor McGlinchey told the ‘Journal’ afterwards he planned to meet with Sinn Fein party officials and his legal team about what happened.
“Honestly, I’m disgusted at the hatred and venom displayed tonight. I came into council to make better working relationships between the parties and do business and, I want to make it clear, I am an individual and the party directive is to deliver change and make better working relations and that is still our aim.”
East Derry DUP MP Gregory Campbell led unionist criticism at the election as Mayor of Mr McGlinchey who spent 18 years in jail for his part in a bomb attack which killed six people in Coleraine in 1973.
Relatives of one of the victims told the ‘Journal’ last week that they had since forgiven Mr McGlinchey.
Mr McGlinchey also told the ‘Journal’: “What happened is my responsibility, those were my actions. If I had known innocent people would be killed I would never have done it. I regret the deaths and I have apologized,”.