A red-hot borough council row – again over the £6m facelift of Portadown People’s Park – ended on Monday night with another three DUP councillors and a Sinn Fein member being voted onto the ‘Space Steering Committee’ that is moving the project forward.
Alderman Sydney Anderson (DUP) and Councillor Gemma McKenna (SF) were the main protagonists in the debate that saw Mayor Mark Baxter telling Ms McKenna five times “to sit down” and Mr Anderson calling the committee “shameful” and proposing it should be stood down and replaced by “a more democratic set-up”.
The two members were at odds whether it required a notice of motion, which would delay it for a week, or a straight-forward proposal, with a plethora of points-of-order adding to the mayhem and confusion. It all highlighted the deep division over the park, described as “a no-go area for Protestants” by Mr Anderson.
Threats of legal action and surcharges were sluing across the chamber in the charged atmosphere, with Mr Anderson pointing that the committee (of around 30) contained just five councillors – Kenneth Twyble (UUP chairman), Gemma McKenna, Joe Nelson (SDLP), Conrad Dixon (All) and Gladys McCullough (DUP).
Mr Anderson claimed, “There’s not a road near the park – Garvaghy Road, Park Road and the Tunnel - where Protestant are welcome. Things must be changed.”
When it was finally agreed that the Anderson proposal was valid, Ms McKenna said, “DUP have tabled two motions to this effect before and both have been voted down. This £6m project must go ahead, and if it is jettisoned, we could be subjected to surcharge.”
She added that a lot of money had been spent so far, “and I want legal advice.”
Councillor Arnold Hatch (UUP) – “DUP are going round in circles trying to deflect attention from their Maze Peace Centre mess and other similar fiascos.”
The vote went against the DUP again, on an 11-8 majority, but they changed tack, with Councillor Darryn Causby proposing that all members from the Portadown Ward should be on the steering committee.
This resulted in Mr Causby, Alan Carson and Mr Anderson (all DUP) joining Mrs McCullough on the group, as well as Sinn Fein’s Paul Duffy. Arnold Hatch is also a Portadown member, but his place has been given over to chairman Kenneth Twyble.