Unionists on Mid & East Antrim Council have backed a motion which accuses Sinn Fein’s Patrice Hardy of deliberately attempting to increase community tensions.
An original motion on the issue, proposed at the March meeting by Ald Gregg McKeen, which sought a public apology from Cr Hardy over a tweet she sent about the Queen, had been adjourned after a point of order had been raised by SF Councillor Paul Maguire and legal advice was sought on it.
The previous month, Cr Hardy had posted a picture of herself in front of a portrait of the Queen in the council chamber on Twitter stating “Big Liz says Dia dhuit”; a greeting in Irish. She subsequently removed it.
Mrs Donaghy told the April meeting that legal advice had recommended the matter should, in the first instance, be referred by the proposer Cr McKeen and the seconder Cr Gaston to the ombudsman for breach of the code of conduct for councillors.
Responding at that time, Ald McKeen said he would look at the wording of the motion with a view to resubmitting and at the latest monthly meeting last Monday night he brought forward a motion which read: “This Council states that it has concerns in relation to the fitness of Cllr. Hardy as vice chair of the Community Planning Committee owing to her posting on social media for example, her derogatory comments on about Her Majesty the Queen. This undermines the ethos of Community Planning to deliver and implement a shared vision of promoting the wellbeing of the Borough, community collaboration and improving the quality of life of our citizens.”
Addressing councillors, Ald McKeen described Cr Hardy’s posting on social media about the Queen as “inappropriate”.
“We can only assume this was a deliberate attempt to cause hurt and offence and increase tension in the communities,” he stated.
“We from the unionist community have no confidence in Cr Hardy to deliver this role (Community Planning vice-chair) for the whole community of Mid and East Antrim,” he said.
Seconding the motion, Cr Gaston said: “I certainly feel Cllr Hardy’s actions need to be held to account.
“Like Ald McKeen I believe this council should have concerns in relation to the fitness of Cr Hardy as vice chair of the Community Planning Committee.”
He claimed Cr Hardy had shown a “blatant disregard” for her role as vice chair and for the principles in the councillors’ code of conduct.
“There is no respect for this chamber or the ambition of community planning to improve the quality of life for all our people here in Mid and East Antrim,” he said.
Cr Declan O’Loan, however, said he regarded the motion “as disproportionate and totally inappropriate”, stating: “The matter which provoked it was relatively trivial. The social media post was taken down quickly
“The commonsense approach was to shrug your shoulders and move on ...Placing this motion and coming back to it for the third month running is petty and small-minded. Unfortunately that is what this council has shown itself to be in its first year of operation.”
Ald. Geraldine Mulvenna said she agreed the motion was not appropriate.
“I am very shocked and disappointed that this motion has been given so much time and airspace,” she said.
Councillors went on to pass the notice of motion on a majority vote of 27 in favour with four against and one abstention.