DESPICABLE' COUNCIL ROW
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
NEWRY and Mourne Council is discriminating against Protestants. That's the view of Councillor Henry Reilly who was speaking at a special council meeting called to agree the rates tariff for 2013.
During a series of outbursts the UKIP councillor described Sinn Fein and the SDLP as sectarian, refused to condemn sectarian attacks against an underage GAA pitch in Kilkeel and branded the council "despicable".
Last week's rates meeting was essentially a formality.
For weeks councillors and council officials have been holding meetings over the rates increase, eventually whittling it down from a proposed rise of 7.3 per cent in January to the 1.3 per cent increase that was agreed last week.
When councillors met in the chamber on Monday the rates had been all but set, which made the heated exchanges that took place all the more surprising.
The meeting began in a relatively jovial mood as councillors by and large agreed that while it was unfortunate that a 0 per cent increase could not be reached, 1.3 per cent was still a good result.
However, that soon changed when Mr Reilly addressed the chamber.
“Since Sinn Fein became the biggest party in Newry and Mourne the whole persona of this council has changed," he said.
“There is now serious discrimination against the unionist community here."
Independent councillor Davy Hyland took exception to the Mourne councillor's assertion that the council was sectarian.
“If anyone takes a quick look at the mayoral wall outside this chamber they will very quickly see that Henry is on it," he said referring to Mr Reilly's stint as mayor of the council from 2004 to 2005.
“There are many unionist dominated councils across the north where there has never been a nationalist mayor."
This only further outraged Mr Reilly.
“Sinn Fein opposed my appointment as chairman every step of the way," he shouted.
“Fair play to the SDLP, they supported me."
However, his attitude to the SDLP quickly shifted after councillor Michael Carr spoke.
“Week in week out we have to come in here and listen to Henry rant and rave about discrimination," he said.
“Frankly, I and a lot of other councillors here find Henry's weekly outbursts very offensive.
“Senior management should take him aside and show him the money that goes to the Mournes. I'll take him out to Warrenpoint and show him real deprivation."
However, Mr Reilly was unmoved.
“This is an absolutely despicable council and it's because of people like you," he roared as he pointed at Mr Carr.
When the SDLP raised the issue of repeated acts of sectarian vandalism against an underage GAA pitch in Kilkeel Mr Reilly again refused to follow the example of other unionist councillors and condemn the attacks.
“I'm not going to condemn anything to please the likes of you," he shouted across the chamber.
Mayor John McArdle attempted to move the discussion onto the Banbridge Area Plan but the meeting ended amid shouts and accusations from Mr Reilly.
• What's your view? Are you a member of the Protestant community living in Newry and Mourne? Do you feel like you are being discriminated against? Please let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 028 3025 1250 . Alternatively you can visit our Facebook page at NewryDemo.
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