Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein Mayor who eulogised IRA killer won't resign after no confidence vote

Sean Bateson
Sean Bateson

A Sinn Fein Mayor will not resign from his post despite a no confidence vote against him being passed by his fellow councillors.

The News Letter has reported that the vote against Causeway Coast and Glens Mayor Sean Bateson passed with 17 votes in favour during a special council meeting in Coleraine on Thursday night.

The vote came after Mr Bateson made a post on Twitter praising convicted murderer and hunger striker Thomas McElwee on the 38th anniversary of his death.

“Oh gallant South Derry you are forever blessed. In the struggle for freedom you have given your best. There's Hughes and there's Bateson, Sheridan & Lee and inscribed with their names now brave Tom McElwee,” the Sinn Fein councillor wrote on Twitter.

McElwee was convicted of being part of an IRA gang who planted bombs in Ballymena in October 1976. One of the bombs killed 26-year-old shop owner Yvonne Dunlop.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and joined the 1981 hunger strike, dying on August 8 after 62 days without food.

DUP, UUP and PUP councillors supported the vote against Councillor Bateson. Sinn Fein did not attend the meeting, SDLP councillors walked out and Alliance councillors abstained.

The vote is non-binding and Councillor Bateson is not compelled to resign as a result.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson confirmed that he would not be resigning from his position.

DUP Group Leader on Causeway Coast and Glens Council, Aaron Callan said that Sinn Fein must acknowledge the offence caused by Councillor Bateson.

"The Mayor should be a leader of the Borough and someone able to command respect right across our community. Councillor Bateson’s refusal and that of his party to acknowledge the offence caused have only served to bring the post of Mayor into disrepute," Councillor Callan said.

"Councillor Bateson was not alive during the hunger strikes or when the Troubles were blighting Northern Ireland. Unfortunately his actions have not just been condoned by more senior Sinn Fein representatives, but actively encouraged. Rather than focused on building a better future it is deeply disappointing that Councillor Bateson and his colleagues seem intent only on glorifying the terrorism of the past.

"Whilst it appears Sinn Fein will attempt to ignore this democratic vote of Council they cannot escape the message that was sent out by Council. Their refusal to even acknowledge the problem means the message of no confidence must extend right across that party."

The recent Tweet is not the first time Councillor Bateson has courted controversy since taking office.

In May he was criticised for posing for photographs at memorials to two dead IRA men.

A Twitter post boasting about tearing down a Union flag - described as a "butcher's apron" by Mr Bateson in the tweet - also surfaced.

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