Derry City and Strabane District Council has passed a motion condemning Saturday’s car bomb attack on Londonderry’s courthouse – by a single vote.
It took the intervention of the mayor, SDLP man John Boyle, to get the vote over the line in the face of republican opposition in the chamber on Thursday.
The meeting of the full council had initially been scheduled to about rates and was set to be closed to the public.
However the nature of the gathering was changed to allow councillors to discuss the bombing instead, and the public and press were permitted in.
Sinn Fein (which has 15 members on the 40-strong council, more than any other party) put forward a motion stating that the council does “oppose” what happened, and that attacks should cease.
However independent councillor Sean Carr (formerly of the SDLP) proposed an amendment to the motion which included the word “condemn”.
He told the News Letter that his amendment read as follows: that the council “unambiguously says violence is wrong whether that be carried out by the state or those opposed to the state, past or present, and that must be condemned”.
He said that he had put this forward because he found Sinn Fein’s motion to be “very, very weak”.
According to his account, which is supported by two unionist councillors the News Letter spoke to, his amendment passed by 19 votes to 18 – with unionists and the SDLP joining forces to support it against Sinn Fein and republican independents.
The only reason it passed was because the mayor held the casting vote, and opted to support it.
The entire amended motion was then voted on, and passed in the exact same manner.
Sinn Fein had issued a statement on Saturday via its press office which said it “condemned” the car bombing.
It is thought the word was removed from the Sinn Fein motion before the council to help it gain approval even from dissident-inclined republican councillors.
Speaking afterwards, councillor Carr told the News Letter “any right-thinking person would say this [the car bomb] has to be condemned”.
He also said he was “surprised” that unionists backed his amendment, because it was so expansive that – taken literally – it covered all acts of force by the state too, adding unionists “always have an excuse for state violence”.
DUP councillor Allan Bresland said he “was not wile happy about the wording of it,” but backed it anyway, whilst the UUP’s Mary Hamilton said she did not wish to comment on that when asked.
An additional motion was put forward by Derek Hussey of the UUP, highlighting what he called the “deficit” in security force numbers.
He told the News Letter that it called on the Policing Board, Chief Constable and Secretary of State to consider and address it.
This motion passed with unionist, SDLP and Sinn Fein support.
Councillor Hussey, laughing, said of Sinn Fein: “They couldn’t condemn the bombing, but they then back the call for additional PSNI resources. It’s not for me to figure out their logic.”