AN Ulster council has been whipped into a frenzy – over "offensive Irish labelling" on pots of Marks and Spencer cream.
A meeting of North Down Borough Council’s Corporate Committee turned sour last month when DUP councillor John Montgomery offered up a tub of the dairy product for examination.
He blasted the retailer for branding it ‘Irish whipping cream’ produced in ‘Irish pastures’, when a closer inspection of information on the back showed it was churned out in Northern Ireland.
His proposal to write to the company to complain was passed by two votes at a town hall council meeting a fortnight ago – stirring up a backlash from ratepayers and opposing councillors.
Mr Montgomery told the News Letter yesterday: “I was in Marks and Spencer last month looking for some cream, and was in a rush, so I had no alternative but to pick up what was labelled ‘Irish cream’.
“But when I got it home, I read it was produced in Northern Ireland, and I feel it’s a shame Northern Irish produce is not getting its full recognition.”
Mr Montgomery added this was simply a case of promoting the work of Northern Ireland farmers for the good of the Province’s economy.
However, many of his council colleagues poured derision on his motion to write to the store, branding it a “silly” waste of time.
Independent Unionist Alan Chambers was said to have suggested that Mr Montgomery submit a personal complaint to Trading Standards instead of involving the whole council.
DUP alderman Leslie Cree abstained from the vote and said he found the debate “puerile”.
Alliance councillor Tony Hill added: “[Mr Montgomery] is from the DUP, so by criticising the fact that it said ‘Irish’ and not ‘Northern Irish’ on the cream, it’s quite obvious what the intention is.
“It was discussed by Alliance councillors and we felt it was a ridiculous matter to raise, and far too minor for council when we have more important things to discuss.”
Defending himself, Mr Montgomery said yesterday: “This affects the livelihoods of producers in Northern Ireland, and anything that affects them impacts on the country. It’s not a waste of time.”
Marks and Spencer were yesterday unavailable for comment.