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Sinn Fein Mayor who wore chain at Easter wreath-laying faces vote of no confidence

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 16/04/2015

The chairman of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Naomi Bailie, laying a wreath at the Easter Rising commemmoration
The chairman of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Naomi Bailie, laying a wreath at the Easter Rising commemmoration

A Sinn Fein mayor is facing a vote of no confidence as she chairs her first meeting of a new supercouncil after wearing her chain of office to an Easter Rising commemoration.

Eight DUP, UUP and UKIP councillors in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council have united to force the vote after it emerged that Naomi Bailie had laid a wreath at a church graveyard ceremony in Newry on April 5.

William Walker of the DUP and Ukip's Henry Reilly claimed the commemoration was a Sinn Fein event that honoured IRA terrorists. They said the chairwoman should not have been there in her official capacity as it had upset both Catholics and Protestants.

Last night Ms Bailie said she was confident of defeating the motion on May 5. The Downpatrick councillor said she had sought advice from council officials before accepting the invitation from Newry-based 1916 Easter Rising commemoration group Casca and followed the correct protocols.

"I'm not apologising on the basis that I didn't see this as a personal invitation. This invitation came to me as chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District," she said.

Mr Walker, the last chairman of the old Down District Council, proposed the motion which was seconded by Mr Reilly. He said he was contacted by two Catholic constituents who forwarded him images of Ms Bailie attending the event.

"I got emails and calls from nationalists, not unionists, who thought it was a shame and disgrace," he said. "I'm a staunch unionist and loyalist but when I took up office I knew I had to set my political views aside for the year I was in office."

He said that last year as an elected representative and Orange member he was asked to lead the Twelfth of July parade and refused to wear his chain of office because it was not proper protocol.

"She has lost the support of the vast majority of councillors in the council," he said.

Mr Reilly said Ms Bailie's appearance at the Easter Rising commemoration had "caused a huge degree of upset".

"I received over 200 complaints from emails, texts and from Facebook so it's a very real issue for a lot of people," he said.

SDLP councillor Gary Stokes said no constituents had complained. But he added Ms Bailie should be taken to task if it was deemed she broke protocol.

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