Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Newry mayor Dáire Hughes faces no confidence vote over request to boycott Israeli goods

Mayor of Newry Dáire Hughes faces no confidence vote
Mayor of Newry Dáire Hughes faces no confidence vote

The Mayor of Newry is facing a vote of 'no confidence' after his request for businesses to boycott Israeli goods.

Unionists will propose a vote of no confidence in Sinn Fein mayor Dáire Hughes at tonight's meeting of Newry and Mourne Council, and called on him to apologise or quit his position.

Last month unionists called on Mr Hughes to say sorry for sending a letter out urging shops not to sell Israeli goods over the country's military actions in Gaza.

Around 2,000 Palestinians have been killed – mostly civilians – and more than 10,000 people have been wounded since the conflict began on July 8, according to United Nations figures.

In Israel, 67 people have been killed.

UUP councillor David Taylor said he and his fellow unionist council colleagues felt compelled to ask the mayor to apologise or consider his role following what he described as his "recent disturbing and deliberate action in sending letters to retailers seeking the listing and removal and boycott of Israeli goods within shops and stores around Newry and Mourne District".

Mr Taylor claimed: "Councillor Hughes has tarnished and compromised the position of first citizen of Newry and Mourne through his deliberate actions.

"The mayor took a decision to issue correspondence which can only be described as insulting and sinister in nature without the consent or approval of council members and this has subsequently led to him tainting the position of first citizen of our district."

Mr Taylor said there was "considerable anger and concern" at the mayor's decision to issue the correspondence and he was concerned about the potential damage his action can have on the "reputation of our district".

"My unionist colleagues and I believe, given the significant controversy surrounding Councillor Hughes' failure to act duly and appropriately as mayor, that he should offer an immediate apology or consider his position as first citizen of Newry and Mourne."

Mr Hughes was not available for comment last night. Meanwhile, Palestinian factions appeared divided yesterday as the clock wound down on the latest Gaza ceasefire.

Officials said Hamas was still opposed to a compromise Egyptian proposal that would ease the closure of the territory while other factions, including delegates representing president Mahmoud Abbas, were inclined to accept.

Hamas officials said they were holding out in the hope of getting more concessions in the Egyptian-mediated talks.

With a temporary truce set to expire today, a range of outcomes remained possible.

These include a return to the bitter fighting that has brought devastation to Gaza, an unofficial understanding that falls short of a formal negotiated deal or yet another extension in peace negotiations.

Background

Last month Sinn Fein was accused of attempting to intimidate major retailers and shop owners for stocking products made in Israel on their shelves. Superstore bosses and shops were asked to produce lists of the goods they sell from Israel "or the occupied countries".

A letter from Newry and Mourne mayor Dáire Hughes claimed continued sales were giving "financial support, succour and legitimacy" to Israel's "unchecked violations of Palestinian human rights".

Update:  Unionists irked as mayor survives confidence vote on Israeli boycott call

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