SINN Fein is calling for the changing of the current suffix of Magherafelt Council’s website and email addresses from ‘gov.uk’ to a neutral address.
Councillor Sean Kerr is planning to table the motion at the next meeting of the council, despite DUP opposition who described is a “a new process of ethnic cleasning.”
“I am disappointed at the negative reaction by some in council and elsewhere to this proposal,” said Councillor Kerr.
“We are in a time when our political leaders are doing great work on building bridges and promoting a shared future. In Magherafelt we have seen a very positive response from the community to the proposals for a new shared space in our town centre, so why not a shared cyber-space?
“As a member of Sinn Féin and an Irish republican to have an email address ending in ‘.gov.uk’ does not rest easy. It needs to be highlighted, though, that we are calling for a neutral address to be used.
“We are not wielding our power, through being the majority in council, to force through an address that may be uncomfortable for unionist such as ‘.ie’. ‘.org’ is already in use in Moyle council where members of three unionist parties (UUP, DUP and TUV), as well as independent representatives seem to be operating without difficulty.
“DUP councillor Paul McLean has claimed that ‘this is a further erosion’ of British culture which in fact makes my own argument.
“If it is viewed that the removal of the .gov.uk address is an erosion of Britishness it therefore implies that the council itself is an expression of British cullture and Britishness. This is not the case nor should it be.
“The council is an organisation made up of elected members which provides services for the people of the district. As such it should reflect the will of all the people and not just one particular outlook.
“I believe that a neutral web address such as .org is one which all should be comfortable with in that it does not reflect or promote any one particular set of values or culture. I fail to see why anyone should object to this.”
Responding, DUP Councillor Paul McLean said Councillor Kerr needed to remember that Magherafelt district, like the rest of Northern Ireland, is an integral part of the UK and therefore is British and will remain British.
“If he and others don’t like that then their more than welcome to move to the Irish Republic and see how things are there.
“It’s my understanding that Councillor Kerr is more than willing to accept the British pound with Her Majesty the Queen’s head, and all the social benefits that are available within the UK yet, on the other hand, has the audacity to push his Irish Republican agenda.
“Furthermore if he is so interested in delivering a service to the people of the district then he would be willing to preserve costs not waste costs on such a pathetic issue when people are losing their jobs and finding ends hard to meet.
“Councillor Kerr is once again demonstrating just how hypocritical Sinn Fein is.”
Continuing, Councillor McLean accused Mr Kerr of back peddling regarding the withdrawal of the motion on the Greenvale signage.
“While he may play around with smooth words to conn his supporters. The fact is Sinn Fein tabled the motion and Sinn Feing had to withdraw the motion after adjourning the meeting to seek further advise when they were advised they could face a legal challenge,” he said.
“This motion was clearly another blatant attempt by Kerr and is cronies to rail-road through another part of their Republican agenda.
“As for fairness, inclusion and equality, Sinn Fein don’t know the meaning of the words - it’s their way or none stated.
“Since the Local Government Elections it has become very clear that unionists and the unionist community are not wanted within the Magherafelt District and I believe that what we’re experiencing is a ‘new process’ of ethnic cleansing; in other words ‘Brits out’. Well we have news for SF we’re not going anywhere.
“This motion and others like it will give us as councillors in the unionist family greater opportunities to expose Sinn Fein’s hypocrisy on issues like equality fairness and inclusion, etc.
“I implore all unionists to be on their guard against moves from SF and Republicans to erode our unionist and British culture.