Anger as watchdog refuses to probe Sinn Fein councillor's 'proud ex-IRA man' remarks
Unionists have hit out at a council watchdog's decision that "shameful" remarks by a Sinn Fein councillor in which he said he was "a proud ex-IRA man" did not breach the code of conduct.
Former Limavady mayor Sean McGlinchey was convicted of a 1973 car bombing in Coleraine that killed six people. He served 18 years in prison before being released in 1992.
In September Mr McGlinchey - brother of slain INLA leader Dominic - sparked the row at a meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
He later defended his remarks, but said he regretted making them in Coleraine, which he admitted was "insensitive".
The row flared during a debate on the refugee crisis in Europe. Mr McGlinchey told councillors: "I'm proud of the men and women who were in the IRA with me, but that doesn't mean to say I am proud of everything the IRA did.
"I am not proud of the Disappeared and I am not proud I played a role in the death of innocent people in Coleraine. The unionist state that existed where I, as a 16-year-old along with my 15 and 17-year-old brothers and elderly father were arrested, interned and had the living daylights battered out of us resulted in me becoming an IRA man. I came into politics to make sure there are no more Sean McGlincheys."
The remarks caused outrage and Ulster Unionist councillor William McCandless and Coleraine bomb survivor David Gilmour reported him to Northern Ireland Ombudsman Tom Frawley.
However, the Ombudsman's office ruled yesterday that, after examining the remarks, it had decided against investigating the complaints.
Mr McCandless said: "Quite frankly, the Ombudsman has demonstrated cowardice by refusing to investigate the complaint.
"There can be no question that for a councillor who planted a bomb that killed six people - and who uses the council chamber of the very same town in which that atrocity was committed - to declare himself a proud member of the organisation responsible for that atrocity has brought the office of councillor into disrepute. No sensible person would say that he acted in a way as to increase respect for the office he holds.
"We said at the time this statement was utterly shameful and completely inexcusable, and this is obviously a view we still hold.
"The people of Coleraine will greet the Ombudsman's decision with the derision and contempt which it deserves."
Mr McGlinchey made his comments during an exchange in which he proposed that the council should offer assistance to refugees fleeing Syria.
He reacted to comments from unionists who suggest the IRA had "created plenty of refugees".
Speaking after the debate, Mr McGlinchey reiterated his words but qualified them with his regret at some of the actions carried out by the IRA, including his own.
Mr McGlinchey was unavailable for comment on the Ombudsman's decision.