A republican politician in Londonderry who walked out of a council meeting in protest at the PSNI’s presence during a discussion on recent flooding in the north-west has been criticised for his stance.
Independent councillor Gary Donnelly walked out of the special sitting of Derry City and Strabane District Council, convened on Friday evening specially to discuss the flooding, citing the PSNI’s involvement in the meeting.
The PSNI were one of a number of statutory agencies, such as NI Water and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, to provide an update on the response to the severe flooding.
Mr Donnelly confirmed on Sunday that it was the PSNI’s involvement that prompted him to walk out of the meeting.
“It’s very simple,” he said. “As a republican I see the PSNI as defending the British state and interests in this part of Ireland and they were there regarding the floods. You had a PSNI member in there armed with a handgun. I don’t think they should have had a place in there.”
Independent unionist Maurice Devenney was highly critical of Mr Donnelly’s walkout.
He said: “A lot of us can go through our lives and not need the police but whether it be if there’s a car accident, a burglary or some sort of violence, you know I don’t know what Gary Donnelly would do if there was an incident like that. What would he do if there was something that happened and he had to rely on the police? Ultimately that’s what they’re there for, to protect people and to keep people safe, no matter who you are.”
The former Foyle MLA continued: “When you take all the pain and hurt that is going on because of the flooding at the minute, every agency including the PSNI was there to give us an update. I have known Gary since he was elected and he has always made this point that he will not be there when the police are there and I can’t understand it. Let’s be honest, the police are there to serve everyone, no matter what their views are or no matter what their aspirations in life are, the police are there to protect everybody. It’s ridiculous really.
“If there was anybody in his constituency who had serious flooding like what they had in Drumahoe or Eglinton, what would they think of him walking out of the meeting?
“The police are there to help and to save lives as well. I was there to listen to a report from all the agencies, including the police, on how they dealt with the flooding and I think as elected representatives it is important for us to do that. He decided to walk out.”
Mr Devenney added: “When we look back over the years, you can see that Sinn Féin were not supportive of the police but they have moved on. They are now sitting very supportive of the police on all issues. I do believe that those who do not support the police, they really need to question themselves.”