A leopard doesn’t change its spots – and Craigavon Borough Council members, who initially tried to end CBC’s 41-year sojourn by being pleasant to one another on Monday night (their final act), finished up playing true to type.
They became embroiled -‘in committee’ - in a hoary old argument over flags, which could lead to an estimated £50,000 surcharge. It would be paid for by the dissenting unionist members who are ignoring legal advice and ploughing on with flying the Union Flag 365 days a year from the Civic Centre.
But you can’t lay all the blame on unionists. Sinn Fein are the protagonists, skilfully using their propaganda acumen to diminish all things British from this part of the UK – even though the Civic Centres are part of the Government of The Kingdom.
They have used the name of an individual citizen, former SF councillor Michael Tallon, to extract legal aid, which could be construed as using the British legal system to remove the British flag from a British institution. It could only happen in Britain!
Sinn Fein were also ambivalent during the debate on ‘Justice for The Craigavon Two’ recording – a CD launched on Sunday calling for the release of Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wootton, jailed over the March 2009 murder of Constable Stephen Carroll. The Mayor is writing to iTunes in a bid to have the recording terminated – a move supported by his UUP colleagues, by SDLP and DUP. But Sinn Fein didn’t take part in the debate. (McConville was once in their party ranks in Craigavon Borough Council).
Monday night started with a modicum of camaraderie, with everyone uniting to condemn the latest bomb scare on the main Portadown-Belfast railway line at Bell’s Row in Lurgan. And they lined up in support of MLA Jo-Anne Dobson’s campaign for the opt-out organ donors system.
They then eulogised the 12 council members not returning to the fray – those who opted out of the elections to the new ABC council and those who failed at the May 2014 polls. One almost expected a burst of the old final school assembly favourite ‘Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing’.
But then it all turned sour. Mayor McCusker and Deputy Seeley spoke of their efforts to “unite the community” during their year of office. And Seeley had a few straight things to say about the dearth of nationalists in the top offices over the four decades. This sparked off DUP’s Carla Lockhart who recalled that Ms Seeley had “failed the unionist population with her cross-community double-talk” when she refused to lay a wreath in Lurgan on Remembrance Sunday, and then she had a blazing row with UUP’s Ronnie Harkness, one of the dozen opting out.
Mr Harkness assured her she wouldn’t get away with her “dissident unionist behaviour” in the new ABC set-up – “You’ve already lost seven votes in the shadow set-up”. The DUP group leader retorted that Mr Harkness “never votes for a unionist mayor or for the Union Flag”, after which the ‘in committee’ flags debacle got under way.
Just another night at the Civic Centre…