AN SDLP councillor has urged Magherafelt District Council to take a look at itself as he claimed relations have seriously deteriorated in the past six months.
Councillor Jim Campbell told the annual meeting that in a democracy those who had the power have a responsibility to exercise it properly and they all owed it to the ratepayers to make the council work.
He stressed there were bigger and more important concerns affecting the wider community than the niggling and squabbling than went on within the community.
His comments came after the DUP’s Councillor Paul McLean was elected to the Chair and Sinn Fein’s Councillor Catherine Elattor to the Vice Chair for the incoming year.
Councillor Campbell praised the work of the outgoing Chair, Councillor Ian Milne, for his “courtesy and professionalism” and wished the incoming Chair and Vice Chair a good year in office.
Councillor McLean said he would serve all the people of the area to the best of his ability but would also endeavour to readdress the “imbalance between nationalists and unionists set out by Sinn Fein which is clearly evident within this present council.”
He said: “Whilst Sinn Fein continue to be the largest party with overall control the challenge for them is to demonstrate by their actions and not their words that they are real about making unionists welcome in Magherafelt.
“The continuing by Sinn Fein to promote the Irish language over or on a equal level to English, the removal of UK from our emails and the council web site, continuing attacks on our culture and our national flag is not how unionists see inclusion.
“The proof of inclusion will be judged by their action and not their words - the proof of the pudding is always in the eating and so actions speak louder than words.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Sean McPeake said he would like to commend his party colleague Councillor Milne for the work he has done over the year in reaching out to everybody in the community.
He agreed with Councillor Campbell that the council needed to take a look at itself.
“Sinn Fein don’t want to see a deterioration in standards or relationships,” he said, emphasising that his party had endeavoured to work towards an inclusive council.
He dismissed claims that Sinn Fein had created a cold house for unionism, pointing out that Councillor McLean’s presence in the Chair was proof that his party were committed to inclusiveness.
Councillor McPeake added it was a pity that some unionist controlled councils could not show the same commitment to inclusiveness as his party.
Earlier the outgoing Chair, Councillor Milne, thanked everyone who had supported him during his term in office stressing that there had been “a lack of cooperation” from Ulster Unionist Vice Chair Councillor George Shiels.
Councillor Shiels said he had by and large enjoyed his year in office but hit out at Sinn Fein accusing the party of discrimination.