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Comments around handling of contentious Sinn Fein motion were ‘disrespectful’

The Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has ruled remarks made at a previous meeting around the handling of a Sinn Fein motion, were disrespectful.

There was fury in the chamber during the December meeting when then Chair Councillor Chris Smyth was accused of censorship by Sinn Fein, after he rejected a motion on the 100th anniversary of the passing Government of Ireland Act, resulting in the partition.

The submitted motion held this had proved detrimental to the social, economic and political development of the island and 100 years on, partition continues to fail all citizens.

Following consideration Councillor Smyth was unhappy with the manner in which the motion was presented and urged Sinn Fein to check it over and resubmit.

The issue clashed with Councillor Smyth stepping down as Chair halfway through his term of office, and a number of bitter verbal blows followed, as Sinn Fein felt unable to have their concerns properly addressed.

Having taken over as Chair at that meeting, Councillor Diana Armstrong advised the motion could be resubmitted.

But at the most recent meeting, she told members following review of the the minutes of that meeting she wished to make some comments.

“I don’t want to go into great detail but the minutes state a member said the previous Chair had ignored the advice of the Chief Executive and could have requested clarification if he felt the motion was incomplete. I sent back the motion clarifying again if the context could be made clear. I question why the member wanted to know why the then Chair had not asked for clarification. When I did so I got a reply saying the motion was factually complete.”

She continued: “I believe that was somewhat disrespectful to the Chair. It is quite ironic that it was treated as such that when I carried out the same action, I got an obdurate response. I’m putting that on the record.”

Proposer of the motion in question, Councillor Stephen McCann responded: “Just for clarity, I made that particular comment. I was referring to the former Chair and I wanted to know why he did not allow the Chief Executive to contact me to resolve the points raised. He could have done that but he chose not to.”

Councillor Smyth responded: “It’s important to note while Chair, I never engaged in bartering and there were a number of examples where I turned down motions. I was attempting to maintain a level playing field. That was mentioned and I’m putting it back on the record.”

Motion seconder Councillor Chris McCaffrey also pointed out the remarks referred to the previous Chair adding: “I don’t wish to dwell on this, but I support Councillor McCann. We do not believe the former Chair sought adequate clarification and did not follow proper protocols. That I believe, was the sentiment expressed.”

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