Ballycastle councillor breached code of conduct with flags picture

Padraig McShane (right) in the council chamber in June last year
Padraig McShane (right) in the council chamber in June last year

A councillor who controversially posed for a photo beside an Irish tricolour flag and a Palestine flag in the chamber of a unionist-controlled council has been found to have broken the local government code of conduct.

There was uproar from unionists last year when independent councillor Padraig McShane from Ballycastle was pictured with the flags during a private visit to the council chamber of Coleraine-based Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council.

At an adjudication hearing, in the same council building on Tuesday, Ian Gordon, acting local government standards commissioner, ruled the councillor had breached four parts of the code.

He adjourned the hearing until a later date when he will outline what sanction, if any, he will impose.

Mr McShane, 44, is only the second councillor in Northern Ireland to have been found to have broken the code of conduct.

A short time after the hearing Mr McShane only said: “Please speak to my solicitor.”

His solicitor Michael Brentnall had not initially made any comment.

The controversy flared in June last year when Mr McShane along with Londonderry independent councillors Gary Donnelly and Darren O’Reilly, were pictured sitting behind the flags with Gaza official Mohamed Al-Halabi.

Mr McShane has links with Gaza and said he was taking his visitors on a tour of the council offices where he is a member.

Finding the councillor breached the code of conduct Mr Gordon said flags are a “divisive and emotive” issue and he said the “surreptitious nature” of what he had done amounted to a misuse of the council chamber.

Mr Gordon said a complaint had been made by the DUP.