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UUP councillor apologises after offensive outburst in spat over street names

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UUP Alderman Jim Dillon (left) apologised to DUP councillor Andrew Ewing

UUP Alderman Jim Dillon (left) apologised to DUP councillor Andrew Ewing

DUP councillor Andrew Ewing

DUP councillor Andrew Ewing

UUP Alderman Jim Dillon (left) apologised to DUP councillor Andrew Ewing

An Ulster Unionist councillor has apologised for his "offensive and inappropriate language" at an awards dinner attended by business leaders and senior politicians.

Alderman Jim Dillon read out the letter of apology to DUP councillor Andrew Ewing at a meeting of Lisburn and Castlereagh Council on Tuesday.

Among those at the La Mon Hotel event in March 2016 was DUP leader Arlene Foster, although it isn't known if she witnessed the abusive behaviour.

It is understood that Mr Dillon hurled abusive language at Mr Ewing during the black tie dinner after the DUP man had intervened over the naming of a street in Moira.

Mr Ewing was behind a successful vote to call a street 'Harlow Green', which had been informally known as 'Dillon Green' previously.

In his apology, Mr Dillon stated: "I, without reservation, wish to express my sincere regret for the use of offensive and inappropriate language, particularly given we were both at a public event.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I apologise for the hurt you have experienced and certainly I have no difficulty acknowledging it is a turn of events that should not have happened or will be repeated.

"I recognise that in making such offensive comments at a public reception, in front of your friends, colleagues and members of the public, my actions fell far short of the standard of conduct which the public have a right to expect of an elected member," he added.

"I accept that my conduct failed to comply with the requirement of the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors, and in particular, the requirement to show respect and consideration for others."

Mr Dillon declined to comment further when contacted yesterday.

Mr Ewing said he accepted the apology. "This has drawn a line under it," he said.

"It has been sorted out and I want to move on from this unfortunate experience."

The name Harlow refers to James Harlow, who was a gardener at the Moira mansion of Sir Arthur Rawdon, a keen botanist whose father was a general in the army of King William of Orange and built the town.

Harlow was sent to Jamaica in the late 17th century to bring back exotic plants to fill the landowner's 'hot house', the first in Europe.

Council committee minutes from last year record that the street names for a development had been given as Dillon Green and Dillon Mews while the housing was being marketed.

However, other names had been suggested - such as Harlow Green and Moy Park - but apparently discarded, to the concern of some councillors.

The council's Head of Building Control told members that the developer, DTL Construction, had informed him that the reference to 'Dillon' in the street names related to historical connections in Moira.

But in March last year, Mr Ewing proposed that Harlow Green be used instead, and the vote was carried at a Development Committee Meeting.

At the time, Mr Dillon put on record that he had taken no part in the naming discussion.

A spokesperson for the Acting Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards has confirmed that Alderman Dillon has made an apology in line with the Commissioner's Alternative Actions Policy and that the matter is now closed.

Belfast Telegraph