Councillors in war of words over use of Council Chamber

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A row erupted at Council last Tuesday night as members debated whether or not the Policing and Community Safety Partnership should be permitted use of the Council Chamber for meetings.

The body had requested the use of the Chamber to facilitate their private meetings as their current location is not suitable.

Alderman James McClure was not in favour of permitting the use of the Chamber.

He said: “When the new Council Chamber was built we said there was to be no other meetings held, why should we just throw this decision out?”

UUP councillor Richard Holmes agreed saying: “The Chamber needs kept specially for Coleraine Borough Council meetings.

UUP councillor William King also supported the DUP Alderman, he said: “We just can’t open the door.”

Deputy Mayor, SDLP Alderman Maura Hickey, who is chair of the PCSP did not agree.

She stated that the current location for PCSP meetings was not suitable and said that in the future more people would be added to the body.

“ We’re not opening the doors,” she said.

“It is important that we show leadership and share this space with outside agencies.”

DUP councillor George Duddy, who is also a member of the PCSP agreed with the Deputy Mayor saying: “This is a public building, it should be used by the public.”

He proposed that the PCSP be permitted to use the Chamber.

Independent councillor David McClarty was angry about the debate. He said: “ I cannot believe my ears - we’ve been elected by the people to represent them here. It is our duty to allow them to use this chamber.” He seconded councillor Duddy’s proposal.

DUP Alderman Maurice Bradley agreed saying: “If we’re not here, then who is?

“ We’re not special. We’re here because the people sent us here to represent them. This is an organised body, we have members who sit on it, why should it not be used.”

DUP Alderman William Creelman asked the Chief Executive if a decision could be taken given that a proposal was passed when the Chamber first opened.

The Chief Executive said that a decision could be taken as it was more than six months ago, therefore a rescinding motion was not required.

An amendment was put forward by Alderman McClure to allow the Chief Executive to look back in the Council minutes for the initial decision, however on being put to a vote the amendment was rejected.

Councillor Duddy’s proposal to allow the PCSP the use of the Chamber was carried by 11 votes to three.