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DUP forced to apologise to Sinn Féin

6 February, 2006

The DUP Mayor of Coleraine Cllr Timothy Deans has apologised to Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard for trying to exclude him and his colleagues from a Christmas reception, paid for by the ratepayers.It is thought that this is the first time a DUP representative has had to admit that he acted against the law and apologise to a Sinn Féin representative as a result of legal proceedings. Seven unionist councillors now face the threat of being surcharged as a result.

Cllr Leonard instigated High Court proceedings against the Mayor and Coleraine Borough Council under Equality legislation. It is believed that the council received legal advice to settle out of court because they were on very weak legal ground and Leonard was bound to win.

The Sinn Féin councillor said:

"This was a clear cut case of misrepresenting the ratepayer. The DUP mayor tried to pursue his party policy of excluding Sinn Féin from a function paid for by the ratepayer. It didn‚t work and perhaps the DUP in Coleraine and elsewhere will learn from this episode.

"There may be only one Sinn Féin councillor on Coleraine Borough Council but we as a party are determined to pick our challenges wisely. I believe this is the first time that the DUP have admitted that they acted against the law and apologised to a Sinn Féin representative.

"Eight months into this Council term and Sinn Féin has drawn a firm line against unionist intransigence and there will be more."

And Leonard is determined not to let the question of costs rest.

"Sinn Féin has already notified the Local Government Auditor of its opinion that the seven councillors who voted for this exclusion should be personally liable for the costs of this case. Local electors will now take the necessary action to instigate this process.

"Seven councillors cannot act in this way and think there is no comeback. That is why Sinn Féin proposed a motion before the event and demanded a recorded vote. If six DUP councillors, including the Mayor, and one Ulster Unionist councillor believe that they can act against equality legislation they need to pay for the case that has proved otherwise." ENDS

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