THE Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of a local council has been accused of an “abuse of power” after blocking a DUP proposal to name a Craigavon leisure centre in honour of Northern Ireland’s centenary.
A notice of motion calling for the new leisure centre on the shore of Craigavon lake to be officially named the ‘Centenary Leisure Centre’, was due to be voted on this evening by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
It also called on the council to invite the Queen or a Royal Family representative to officially open the facility - something Lord Mayor Kevin Savage said he was not against.
Councillor Savage stated that the proposal did not provide equality and good relations under the Northern Ireland Act and the Executive’s good relation strategy was also not taken into account.
“What I would like to say about this motion is that I think at this time it shouldn't have been brought forward,” he said.
“I totally concur that the motion is all right in relation to inviting Queen Elizabeth II over to open the centre.
“I have absolutely no issue with that but where I do have an issue with this motion is that we have not taken into account any of the council’s statutory duties under section 25 of the Northern Ireland Act to provide equality and good relations, and also with the Executive’s good relations strategy not being taken into account.
“As the powers vested in me as the Lord Mayor of this borough, I am saying that this motion is improper for that reason.”
The DUP’s group leader on the council, Councillor Mark Baxter, described the Lord Mayor’s decision as “cowardly in the extreme”.
“For you to to sit there citing the Northern Ireland Act that you're not going to even listen to a notice of motion is an abuse of your power.”
He continued: “This hasn't happened in my nine years on this council. Never has anyone been as cowardly not to take a notice of motion on the floor. It’s cowardice in the extreme.”
The Chief Executive of the council, Roger Wilson, confirmed that he was informed of the Lord Mayor’s decision as the meeting began and he had not taken senior counsel on the matter.