A decision by Derry City and Strabane District Council to “snub” an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party has been described as a “slap in the teeth” to unionists.
The council voted against sending a councillor by the smallest of margins on Monday evening, with 15 voting in favour and 15 against. The mayor, Sinn Fein councillor Maolíosa McHugh, cast the deciding vote.
DUP councillor David Ramsey told the News Letter the decision would set back community relations in the city.
“Does this man (mayor McHugh) not realise that there have been upwards of 20 years of work in this city, of collaboration, of trying to work together,” he asked.
“It was shocking from someone who is meant to be in an impartial role, representing everyone in the city and district.
“It is part of the mayoral role to represent not only our city and district, but on this occasion the people who won awards, MBEs etc.
“Not only did he use his casting vote to prevent Derry City and Strabane District Council being represented at the Royal garden party, he also snubbed the people who have received awards.”
Mr Ramsey said his party would consider using a ‘call-in’ to query the decision, a procedure that can be requested if a certain number of councillors believe a decision could adversely affect a section of the community.
“We have to decide now, as a party, what our next step is,” Mr Ramsey said. “We are considering a call-in of this decision. We will have to seek guidance on that but that will be an option.”
UUP councillor Derek Hussey expressed a similar view, saying: “The decision to snub an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party is another slap in the teeth for the unionist people of Londonderry and its hinterland.”
He added: “How hard would it have been to pass the invitation to someone within the council who was content to attend?”
Sinn Fein councillor Eric McGinley, however, said his party would have been happy to allow the council to nominate a representative to attend, so long as the councillor nominated agreed to pay their own way.
He said: “It was our policy that council should respond to the invitation on the same basis that we respond to all invitations for garden parties.
“The policy would have been that the invitation is made available to councillors but that it shouldn’t come at any cost to the ratepayers.
“That’s been the agreed response for some time.”
Mr McGinley also accused the DUP of “demonising” Mr McHugh.