Members of the SDLP lead walk out in Council Chamber

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MEMBERS of the SDLP on Coleraine Borough Council lead a walk out at last Tuesday’s meeting, over what they claim was ‘intemperate behaviour’ from a DUP councillor.

The press were not present as a debate about the refurbishment of toilets at the Town Hall in Portstewart heated up.

Tempers flared as members got into a war of words over how much they should spend on the proposed project.

The DUP’s Adrian McQuillan suggested that Council should take care of the procurement process themselves spending around £30,000 on each toilet, both male and female, by appointing local builders, and doing the work in seperate stages.

However, SDLP Deputy Mayor, Maura Hickey and other members, backed a recommendation to spend £117,000 on the refurbishment of the Promenade toilet block.

Alderman Hickey asked Mayor, Sam Cole, who was in the chair, to take control of the meeting, as councillor McQuillan spoke at the same time as Alderman Hickey was addressing the chamber.

It’s understood that at one stage we Alderman Hickey requested that the DUP man should be removed from the Chamber.

As the row escalated, the three members of the SDLP, councillor Ciaran Archibald of Sinn Fein, Independent councillor Christine Alexander, and members of the UUP, apart from councillor William King walked out.

In a joint statement the three SDLP members said: “It is no surprise that the bubble has finally burst with councillors making a very clear statement that they are not going to put up with bad manners and lack of moderation from councillor McQuillan any more.

“What does disappoint us is the silence from other members of the DUP and particularly from the Mayor, councillor Sam Cole, who was chairing the meeting.

“His failure to take action has contributed to councillor McQuillan’s most recent irrational behaviour.

“We refute [McQuillan’] scurrilous claim that anything was said about Garvagh that could justify in any way his intemperate behaviour, which sadly has, on too many occasions, become the norm.

“We also refute his erroneous claim that the walkout was orchestrated. This could not be further from the truth.”

The statement went on to say that the SDLP members have requested a meeting with DUP party whip, Alderman James McClure, and that an official complaint has been lodged with Council’s Chief Executive.

Speaking to The Times on Monday, councillor McQuillan claimed that Alderman Hickey had brought the toilet provision in Garvagh into the debate when “it was nothing to do with the toilets in Portstewart”.

He added: “Alderman Hickey wanted a reaction from me, and she got one. She had no need to mention toilets in Garvagh when we were talking about a toilet block in Portstewart.

“What happened in the Chamber can only be described as the tail wagging the dog.

“I simply wanted to create jobs for the local contractors - but once again we are ruling this out.”