The Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy, has reacted angrily to suggestions he ‘evicted’ the Shadow Council from Cloonavin last week.
The newly-formed Causeway Coast and Glens District Council had to move their monthly meeting to Ballymoney Town Hall last Thursday night as the council chamber in Coleraine was booked by councillor Duddy for a visit by a local intergenerational project.
During the meeting in Ballymoney Alderman Maura Hickey asked why the meeting had been moved, and what costs were incurred because of the move?
Chief Executive David Jackson explained the chamber was not available when officers went to book it for the Shadow Council meeting, and the only cost was six working hours for staff to set up Ballymoney Town Hall for the meeting.
After the meeting Ulster Unionist councillor, David Harding, released a statement accusing, Coleraine Mayor, councillor Duddy of ‘evicting’ the Shadow Council.
Cllr David Harding said: “ At a time when we are trying to save expense I found it interesting that councillor Duddy is quite happy to waste ratepayers money and council officers time just to make a rather silly point about his own self importance.
“When the matter was raised in Ballymoney I found it interesting that not one member of his own Party spoke in his defence.”
Cllr Duddy hit back accusing councillor Harding of trying ‘to score political points’.
“I find Councillor Harding’s comments very disappointing but not surprising,” he told the Coleraine Times.
“Disappointing in as far as using a community group to try and score political points against me personally and my party. My party colleagues unlike Councillor Harding are aware the office of Mayor is an impartial role within council, hence the reason why they did not respond and rightly so.
“I feel I need to spell it out for him clearly so he gets a good grasp of what happened.
“First of all, he conveniently forgets that on December 18th, I had informed the Shadow Council, I had an engagement on the evening of 29th January as Mayor of the Borough of Coleraine and it would include a tour of the facilities.
“I will also remind him that at that meeting when I raised the issue he stated ‘I’m disgusted’, this was in reference to me raising the issue and requesting the Shadow Council change the date.
“This was a Coleraine Borough Council Mayoral Reception, held in the Civic Centre of Coleraine Borough Council for Coleraine Borough Council ratepayers and I would remind him, those visiting had paid for and continue to pay for the Cloonavin. It is, as all Council facilities are, owned by the citizens of the Borough of Coleraine, and not as yet by the Causeway Council.
“I was approached in November by a group who had taken part in an intergenerational project, funded by the Police and Community Safety Partnership, requesting to visit the Mayor’s Parlour.
“The Shadow Council normally meet on the fourth Thursday of each month. The group had originally asked to visit on 22nd January, but as the Shadow Council were meeting that evening, I booked the group into visit on 29th January.
“The Causeway Council administration team changed the date of the Shadow Council meeting to the 29th January without checking if the Council Chamber was booked. There is a booking system in operation within Coleraine Borough Council and even Councillor Harding should be aware of it.
“It is unfortunate Councillor Harding chooses to put himself first and does not recognise his duty to his own constituents and wider electorate. The group concerned are situated in his Coleraine East Ward. It comes as no surprise however that he would have cancelled the group visit.
“He didn’t even take into consideration the arrangements these families may have had to make in order to attend, he is more concerned with himself having to move to another venue.
“I’m glad Councillor Harding hasn’t more pressing issues other than having to travel to Ballymoney to deal with.
“Having spoken to members of his own party since last Thursday evening, even they do not wish to be associated with his comments, and have given me their support.
“I have a special duty to the citizens of the Borough of Coleraine’, this is something I take seriously and I will continue to put them first.”
During the meeting Ballymoney councillor Ian Stevenson quipped he was happy with the change of venue as Ballymoney is a ‘fantastic place’!