SINN Fein have been criticised after three members of the party objected to the name of Portadown soldier, Lieutenant Neal Turkington, being added to the list of inscriptions on the town’s war memorial.
The Royal British Legion submitted the request on behalf of Lieutenant Turkington’s family and it was brought before Craigavon Borough Council’s environmental services committee last month.
Lt Turkington of 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, was shot by a rogue Afghan National Army soldier in Helmand Province in July 2010. He was murdered along with two of his colleagues.
Sinn Fein councillors Mairead O’Dowd, Johnny McGibbon and Thomas O’Connor, who told the committee that his party did not support the war in Afghanistan, voted to oppose the proposal but it was passed successfully due to a unionist majority on the committee. The one SDLP councillor, Declan McAlinden, abstained.
Speaking at the council’s monthly meeting on Tuesday night, DUP Alderman Stephen Moutray said he felt “utterly disappointed” and “let down” by Sinn Fein’s objection.
“We weren’t asking for endorsement or support for the war in Afghanistan or any war,” said Mr Moutray. “I’m disappointed that it had to go for a vote and that Sinn Fein couldn’t have sat back quietly.”
Speaking after the meeting, he added, “I think I said I was disappointed in Sinn Fein, well I’m actually appalled. I’m conscious of the sensitivities and the last thing I want to do is cause more hurt to the Turkington family, but I did feel it necessary to highlight that Sinn Fein could not abstain like the SDLP and let this go past, as they have done on other councils I believe.”
During the council meeting Mr Moutray also criticised Sinn Fein for not using the title ‘Alderman’ when addressing the appropriate members and for not wearing council robes at official civic events.
“Sinn Fein won’t even sit on the Jubilee working group (council group responsible for marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in the borough),” he continued, before adding that the party should follow the example set by their colleagues on Belfast City Council who work on a similar group.
“Sinn Fein need to mature in Craigavon before the council will see (Sinn Fein) members in higher positions within the council. Sinn Fein seems to be adopting a hardline style here and because of this we will not be supporting them for any of the Mayoral positions.”
Mr McGibbon branded the remarks “deliberately patronising and provocative” and insisted that his party had established a good working relationship with other political parties and with Mr Moutray in particular.
“We treat everyone the same in the (council) chamber,” he said.
The Sinn Fein group leader then made reference to a motion put forward by Ulster Unionist members calling for progress to be made on the Drumcree parades issue, as evidence of attempts at political ‘point scoring’ between unionist parties.
“(Mr Moutray’s) comments were more about early election campaigning within unionism than anything else,” he added.
It is now expected that the town’s Royal British Legion will work with the council to organise a civic event for the unveiling of Lt Turkington’s inscription at the war memorial.
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