DUP stages council meeting walkout in protest at motion condemning Trump actions
The DUP staged a mass walkout at a Derry City and Strabane District Council meeting last night after claiming the local authority was "becoming a joke".
The protest happened after independent republican councillor Gary Donnelly brought forward a motion calling on the council to oppose a decision by US President Donald Trump recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem in 1967 in a move that has never been recognised internationally. Both Israel and Palestine claim it as their capital and the city's status remains a major stumbling block in peace talks.
Mr Trump's move prompted clashes in the Middle East and criticism from a host of Muslim nations.
At last night's full council meeting, former mayor Hilary McClintock accused Donnelly of "trying to steal headlines" and said that the council was "becoming a joke" to allow so many such motions to come before meetings.
She told councillors and officials that "the DUP has had enough of this" before wishing everyone a happy Christmas and walking out of the council chamber alongside six of her DUP colleagues.
Mr Donnelly said "Slan" - goodbye in Irish - as they left and Ms McClintock told him she "didn't understand what that word meant".
The remaining councillors later agreed to send President Trump a letter asking him to reverse his decision.
Speaking outside, DUP councillor Drew Thompson said that the issues being brought forward to council were "nonsense".
"We came out of the chamber today because of the motions that are being brought forward to council that have absolutely nothing to do with Derry and Strabane District Council," he said.
"This is not the first motion of this kind. We have had numerous ones.
"We had one last month to do with the Catalonia government and Spain and one today to do with Trump's statement on Jerusalem.
"Those have absolutely nothing to with our council area and I think it's more important that we should be debating issues that are relevant to this area.
"We have numerous issues here, and those are more important than some of the nonsense issues that are being brought forward to this council."
Mr Donnelly hit back at criticism. "I have been accused of trying to create headlines and taking part in a stunt," he said.
"I think what we have seen today was exactly what the DUP accused me of doing.
"They had a dramatic walk-out and they said there was more important work to be done.
"However, they had the same opportunity to bring whatever motion before council and they refused to do so, they walked out before the end of business.
"I brought this motion forward because I believed we had a duty to add our voice to the growing international calls for Donald Trump to reverse his decision.
"I am very happy that it is passed. I think that this council has sent out a message that we will, when we see injustice in the world, speak out against it."