Mayhem in chamber as DUP and Sinn Fein clash

Mark O'Dowd.
Mark O'Dowd.

A RAGING row erupted at Monday night’s Craigavon Borough Council meeting, when Craigavon Mayor Carla Lockhart threatened the evict Sinn Fein’s Mark O’Dowd.

Mr O’Dowd insisted, “I’ll not leave - them days is over” as a furious war of words continued.

The row followed a meeting in January which the Mayor had called with DRD Minister Danny Kennedy to discuss issues like car parking charges, Lurgan’s Millennium Way, bus depots in Lurgan and Portadown, the role of Northway in Portadown and the long-awaited Craigavon railway halt.

But before the Mayor could give details of the meeting, Councillor Mairead O’Dowd retorted angrily that unionist politicians like David Simpson MP and Jo-Anne Dobson MLA were present, “but nationalists and republicans were excluded”.

She added that MLAs like John O’Dowd (SF) had not been invited, claiming, “Of course, David Simpson from your party (DUP) was there.”

Mayor - “It was my decision who I invited.”

Mairead O’Dowd - You invited people from the unionist side and excluded us.”

Mark O’Dowd joined in the fray and claimed discrimination against nationalists, adding that the Mayor was ruling “for the good of your own party”.

Mayor (to Mark O’Dowd) - “Take your seat, this is disorderly conduct.” But he refused to sit down.

Mayor - “One more time. Take your seat.”

Mark O’Dowd - “You’re stifling debate. You’re here to encourage debate, not to stifle it. This isn’t democracy.”

Alderman Sydney Anderson - “Your party (Sinn Fein) bombed their way to democracy.”

As the mayhem increased, the Mayor suggested that Mark O’Dowd should be “no longer heard for persistently disregarding the chair”, or excluded from the meeting. But he persisted in shouting - “I’ll not leave this meeting - this is a poor reflection on the Mayor and her party.”

The Mayor then adjourned the meeting for 10 minutes “for tempers to cool”, and as she walked out, Sinn Fein members refused to stand.

There were “boos” from the DUP side of the house and calls of “Who do you think you are?”

During the adjournment, chief executive Theresa Donaldson moved among SF and DUP members calling for calm, with the UUP, SDLP and Alliance playing no part in the furore.

When the Mayor returned, she said, “I hope tensions have cooled and there will be no conduct like that in future.” And she moved on to the next business.

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