A debate on a Technical Support Grant at Causeway Coast and Glens’ full council meeting has ended up with one councillor stating she was ‘ashamed’ to be associated with the council.
Another public representative, DUP Alderman George Duddy, said the issue was “another case of Sinn Fein not letting the truth get in the way of a good story”.
During the meeting, Bann DEA Councillor Sean Bateson proposed that council proceed with a £30,000 Technical Support Grant saying it would “help to support a number of our community based organisations to help them access capital funding for their facilities”.
He added: “It is only £30,000 which we have no hesitation in throwing about for other things.
“I totally reject the accusation that this would benefit the GAA. But while on the topic, the GAA is one of, if not the largest community based organisations helping to progress the lives of communities, particularly the rural areas.”
Coming in to second the proposal, Councillor Padraig McShane claimed there had been heckling in the chamber whilst Councillor Bateson was speaking adding that it was “totally appalling”.
He said: “This fund originates from something that was done in Moyle and proved very successful right across the board. It should be reinstated and we should ensure there is adequate support for all sections of our community.
“I think the fact that it was maybe perceived somewhere as somewhere the Fenians could get something else.”
The Mayor, Councillor Richard Holmes halted the Glens councillor because of the language he used leading Councillor McShane to ask: “What’s wrong with my language? Mayor, Is that your political opinion?”
The Mayor reiterated: “Councillor McShane can you make your point without using derogatory language about anybody.”
Responding again, the Independent councillor asked: “What derogatory language did I use? Mayor, you need to tone yourself down. Your statements today give rise to concerns about your adequacy in your position.”
Councillor Bateson’s proposal to proceed with the Technical Support Grant fell following a recorded vote with 16 for and 20 against.
Following the meeting Alderman George Duddy said: “It was disappointing that Councillor McShane descended to use derogatory terms to identify and describe one community.
“From the outset of the suggestion of the Technical Support Grant, there was never any discussion with regards to who would or who wouldn’t be the beneficiaries.
“At no time did anyone ever mention the GAA including during the committee stages.
“If the grant has been successful through council it would have been open to council’s grant funding processes which are Section 75 equality screened. However, it is not surprising when Sinn Fein do not get their own way that they play the sectarian card and try to demonise the unionist community.
“It should also be noted that this grant funding was not in the rates estimate and if it had been successful it would have been to the detriment of other projects and services.”
Referring to Councillor McShane’s comments, the DUP councillor continued: “One would have to question if the same terminology which Councillor Padraig McShane stooped to use had been used by a member of the unionist community, how long would it have been before there were cries of bigotry and sectarianism?
“It is terminology which should not be used during any public meeting at any stage within council.”
Independent Councillor Angela Mulholland spoke of her concern and regret asking: “Why has Technical Assistance grant been turned into a sectarian headcount?”
She added: “I work in community and good relations and we are funded to deliver initiatives based on the government programme TBUC – Together: Building a United Community.
“I’m ashamed to be associated with this council. Maybe more political figures should take examples from the community on the ground and learn from true leadership and forward thinking.”