9 February 2006 Edition

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DUP forced to apologise to Sinn Féin

In a head turning first for the DUP the party's Mayor of Coleraine Councillor Timothy Deans has apologised to Sinn Féin Councillor Billy Leonard.

Deans was forced to apologise to Leonard and admit that he acted against the law when he refused to invite Leonard to last year's Christmas reception, paid for by the ratepayers.

Each councillor is entitled to bring along eight guests to the annual mayor's Christmas party.

The unionist bloc, six DUP and one Ulster Unionist, voted to exclude Leonard.

The Sinn Féin man instigated High Court proceedings against the mayor and the council under Equality legislation, but on Monday 6 February the council, on advice from it's legal team, agreed to settle out of court.

It is believed that the council was on, "very weak legal ground and Leonard was bound to win".

"This was a clear cut case of misrepresenting the ratepayer. The DUP mayor tried to pursue his party policy of excluding Sinn Féin from a function paid for by the ratepayers. It didn't work and perhaps the DUP in Coleraine and elsewhere will learn from this episode.

"This is the first time that the DUP have admitted that they acted against the law and apologised to a Sinn Féin representative."

Leonard told An Phoblacht that he has been in touch with the Local Government Auditor and asked that the seven unionist councillors, six DUP and one Ulster Unionist, who voted to exclude Leonard be made personally liable for the costs of this case.

"Seven councillors cannot act in this way and think there is no comeback. That is why Sinn Féin proposed a motion before the event and demanded a recorded vote. If six DUP councillors, including the mayor, and one Ulster Unionist councillor believe that they can act against equality legislation they need to pay for the case that has proved otherwise."

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1