Council row erupts over addressing of unionist members within chamber

Thursday, 27 July 2017

THE DUP has hit out at the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) in a row over how the First Citizen addresses unionist members of council.
Drew Thompson, DUP leader on the authority, claimed that Sinn Féin's Maolíosa McHugh is not "bringing in" the unionist community when he refers to elected representatives as councillor rather than Alderman.
He was speaking at the monthly meeting of council which was held in the Guildhall on Thursday and during the ratification of minutes from last month's meeting.
Addressing the Sinn Féin Mayor over his conduct since he came into office in June, Alderman Thompson told Mr McHugh he had concerns about "the way you are handling yourself in your role as Mayor."
"There are a number of people today who are Aldermen and you have called them councillors. Do you not want to address people because of the name Alderman?
"Since you have come into office there are a number of things which would give the impression that you are not playing across the board and you are not endorsing and bringing in elements of the unionist community," he added.
He continued: "I am now asking you do I address you as chair because you are not addressing me as Alderman or what is your take on this?
"We need to be absolutely clear on your position as we go forward because there are a number of things which have already been raised..... and it is not going down very well."
Responding the criticism, Mayor McHugh attributed the issue to a "slip of the tongue", stating: "Forgive me for I know not what I do. Councillor, or sorry, Alderman Drew Thompson, I'm sure that every other person within this chamber other than yourself would recognise that that's purely a slip of the tongue."
Mr McHugh assured his council colleague that he did not intend to insult or cause any offence "to you or to your community."
He explained that he represented the entire community, adding "I only ever talk about the community anyway so I'm not sure who it is you're referring to there or which particular group it is that you're referring to.
"It's no insult and I apologise to any councillor here that when I address them if I make that mistake of saying such (councillor rather than Alderman).... It's a slip of the tongue and I don't think that I need to go any further than that. I hope that you're not losing any sleep over it because I certainly am not."
Alderman Thompson retorted: "I'll not loss any sleep over it."
Independent Strabane councillor then waded into the debate telling the Mayor he found his tone "perfectly pleasant".
"I don't think there is any offence that you mean to anyone in this chamber. I think the previous member's comments are well out of order," he added.
His contribution prompted a short retort from Alderman Thompson, who said: "I wouldn't expect anything else from councillor Gallagher."
Elsewhere during the meeting there was some light relief when previous Mayor and the DUP's Hilary McClintcok referred to her party colleague, David Ramsey, as 'councillor' prompting laughter across the chamber.


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