Apology demand after 80-year-old allegedly initimidated at public meeting

Councillor Elisha McCallion

Councillor Elisha McCallion

Sinn Fein Councillor Elisha McCallion has demanded an apology is made to an 80-year-old lady who was allegedly intimidated at a Community Planning event in Londonderry last week.

Councillor McCallion further claimed there was a “mob” travelling between Community Planning events intimidating people and challenging councillors and council officers during a number of recent Community Planning events in the city.

She also challenged claims by a number of Independent Councillors and individuals relating to the meetings held in the city last Thursday.

Standing orders were suspended at the start of the Council’s Business & Culture Committee on Tuesday afternoon at the request of Councillor McCallion to discuss the issue, with her party colleague Brian McMahon seconded the suspension, and the councillors in attendance agreeing to the request.

Stating that she would not apologise for being passionate about the issue, the former Mayor said that part of the purpose of the Community Planning meetings held in the community last week was to elect an Interim Chair.

She completely refuted the version of events put forward by others along the allegations made by them about what unfolded at the meetings.

“The allegations made were very serious about the process and towards council officers and we actually had a case where an 80-year-old lady was intimidated,” she said.

She said the Community Planning process - designed by the Council to help direct resources towards tackling the issues that matter to people in different communities- was “one I am very proud of,” and is “an exciting new opportunity for our communities to tell us what they want for our city and district”.

“There were a number of individuals who travelled throughout the city in a mob intimidating people, challenging us and our officers,” she alleged, adding that she wanted an apology from an individual who allegedly intimidated the 80-year-old woman as well as an apology from a person whom she alleged told a candidate for chair to remove their name.

“It was absolutely disgraceful,” she said.

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said he agreed with some of what Councillor McCallion had said, adding that like her, he had attended one of the community meetings last Thursday.

“There were two camps,” he said. “One camp is now complaining because they didn’t reach the required number to have their nominee selected. I was also approached by the Chair and he said he would represent everybody.”

He said that there were people who “did travel across the city and did vote in a number of different locations across this council area”.

He said that each and every elected member needed to do all they can to ensure the communities they represent are able to engage with the process.

“It was proposed on Friday to change the name of this to ‘Making It Happen’. This is an opportunity to change the lives of the people of this city and district.”

Referring to the allegations made that the elderly lady was initimidated, Councillor Tierney said the woman was “someone I know and have the utmost respect for”.

“No-one attending those meetings on behalf of the community or on behalf of this council should have felt intimidated,” he said, adding: “The person who did that owes that lady an apology.”

Strabane District Independent Councillor Patsy Kelly said he wanted to clarify that he was not one of the Independent representatives referred to and said there had been great input from the community into the Community Plan.

Chair of the Committee, SDLP Councillor Sandra Cusack said it was “very disappointing” people had felt they way did “about issues that should have brought the community together”.