DUP Councillor John McAuley accused Sinn Fein of ‘attempting to whitewash history’ and attempting to besmirch the memory of his father and his colleagues in the RUC.
The Causeway DEA councillor spoke of his pride at ‘being the son of a B-man’ during the October meeting of the Leisure and Development Committee which saw Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Bateson prevented from speaking during one debate.
As members were discussing Causeway Coast and Glens Annual Grants Programme, Cllr Bateson raised the matter of a NI centenary event which was held in Coleraine town centre at the weekend.
The event, organised by Cuil Rathain Historical and Cultural Centre featured a historical re-enactment of a B Specials drill demonstration and checkpoint.
Prior to the event, the organisers had posted on social media in relation to the B Specials Historical Re-enactment group, confirming that ‘this element of the programme is being self-funded entirely by the organisers. NO funding awarded by either Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council or the Ulster Scots Agency will be used in respect of this element of the event programme.’
Addressing the Director of Leisure and Development, Richard Baker, Cllr Bateson asked for ‘clarity’ on the awarding of the grant, describing it as ‘grossly inappropriate and deeply insensitive’.
The Bann DEA councillor said: “My community was disgusted at this event and the re-enactment of a military display of the B Specials.
“The history of the B Specials speaks for itself and was effectively established as the paramilitary wing of the Orange State and designed to subjugate nationalists and republicans.
“The fact that many Protestants and unionists themselves were disgusted by the activities of the B Specials, they were actually disbanded and disguised under the new label of the UDR.
“For nationalists and republicans such an event clearly illustrates the centenary of partition is being used by certain groups as a show of triumphalism.
“Can the director clarify and put on record if this grant went towards the funding and display of this event and the group which is involved in it and can the director give me a breakdown of the £3,769 of council funding this group got and what it went towards.”
Cllr McAuley, Chair of the Committee, informed Cllr Bateson that the topic was not part of the agenda adding: ”You did attempt to get it in on AORB (Any Other Relevant Business) which you were too late for.
“You now have decided to try and slip it in to get a few headlines with your republican agenda.
“I try not to rise to these sorts of things which you have attempted time and time again but it’s a case of, offended by everything and ashamed of nothing.
Cllr Bateson attempted to interrupt the Chair several times before Cllr McAuley stated: “Councillor Bateson, I am the Chair so I will speak if I want to speak
“As the proud son of a B-man I will not let you try to take over this committee to make headlines and try to whitewash history.”
Interrupting again, the Sinn Fein councillor said: “Chair you are stepping out of line, you should be acknowledging the order of the committee and allowing debate, you are crossing the line.”
A point of order was called by Alderman George Duddy who said: “When the Chair speaks during the debate any member speaking at the time must stop and the meeting must be silent.
“I’m not sure if Councillor Bateson understands Standing Orders but you have asked him on more than one occasion when you have been speaking which is your prerogative, and he has continued to interrupt.
“If Cllr Bateson continues I will call point of order 24.2 for a member not to be heard any further.”
Cllr Bateson interrupted again saying ‘go ahead Councillor Duddy, no problem.’
Calling point of order 24.2, the DUP alderman proposed Cllr Bateson could not be heard during the item adding ‘this is the fourth time Cllr Bateson has interjected.’
The proposal on the point of order was seconded and the recorded vote carried with nine for, two against and three abstentions. Cllr Bateson was unable to speak during the remainder of the debate on the Annual Grants Programme.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr McAuley said: “The council’s role, and that of other partners, in funding this event had already been clarified. Sinn Fein were only interested in hijacking the meeting as a PR stunt.
“As Chair, I was not going to allow the proceedings to become a breeding ground for attempts by republicans to rewrite history and tarnish the memory of those who stood against terrorism.
“Councillor Bateson has the audacity to talk about being silenced. My father proudly served in the B Specials and RUC before he was killed when I was three years old.
“I will take no lectures from those who seek to justify a sectarian terrorist campaign that deprived families across our borough of loved ones and showed scant regard for human life.’’