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DUP suspends Ards and North Down councillor over 'grooming' gaffe


Former Ards and North Down Lord Mayor Bill Keery

Former Ards and North Down Lord Mayor Bill Keery

Former Ards and North Down Lord Mayor Bill Keery

A DUP councillor has been suspended from the party for making controversial remarks about the Duke of Edinburgh.

Bill Keery, a councillor for Ards and North Down Borough Council, had already apologised for an "ill-judged" reference made during a council meeting to "grooming" after noting Prince Philip had first met the Queen when she was aged 13.

In a statement, the DUP said that Mr Keery "has retracted and apologised for the ill-judged comments". It added: "The party officers have suspended Councillor Keery from membership of the party pending further investigation."

He had already apologised to colleagues and sent an email to the council chief executive withdrawing the comments made on April 15 during a special council meeting dedicated to paying tribute to Philip ahead of his funeral.

A former Ards and North Down Lord Mayor from 2019 to 2020, he had told the council of how he completed the gold Duke of Edinburgh award in 1969 and of how he had met Prince Philip on four occasions.

Going off message from the tone of the tributes from his party colleagues, he then added: "The Duke of Edinburgh joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman. He first met Her Majesty when she was 13 years old.

"I don't know how people would view that nowadays - that would be talked about as being groomed. But he eventually ended up marrying Princess Elizabeth in 1947."

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Following the meeting, he sent an email of apology which was then passed to all elected representatives in the council.

It stated: "At the special council meeting paying tribute to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, I made a comment which was ill-judged and did not convey what I wished to highlight, which was the bond between HM the Queen and Prince Philip that has endured over so many decades.

"Whilst I offer an explanation for what I was attempting to convey, there is no excuse for the phrase that was used and I both retract it and offer an unreserved apology."

The message added: "I had the honour of meeting Prince Philip on several occasions and do not wish to dishonour his memory in any way, particularly during this time of national mourning.

"I wish again to stress my retraction of the comment and offer apologies to the chief executive, to other members of the council, and to those who were watching the meeting online."