Unionist councillors have walked out of a council meeting in Fermanagh, claiming chairman Stephen McCann had “disgraced” the office by refusing to condemn the bombing of Enniskillen on Remembrance Day 1987.
Thursday night’s meeting was the first opportunity for councillors to quiz the Sinn Fein representative over a recent interview with the Impartial Reporter newspaper.
The UUP proposed a motion calling on the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council chairman to “unreservedly apologise” for the “untold hurt” his remarks caused to many of those he is duty bound to represent.
Both the DUP and UUP said afterwards that the chairman had refused to “clarify or apologise”.
In the article earlier this month, Cllr McCann is quoted as saying he would “not go down the road of condemning” the Enniskillen attack.
He added: “People in my community have suffered as well and you can get into this thing of do you condemn this and do you condemn that? We are talking about an incident that happened 30 years ago”.
Following the meeting, UUP councillor Howard Thornton said: “We took this action to withdraw from tonight’s monthly meeting to publicly protest against the lack of apology from Councillor McCann after his comments in a newspaper interview. Cllr McCann refused to condemn the 1987 Enniskillen bomb, when 11 people were murdered, and suggested IRA gunman and terrorist Seamus McElwaine ‘set the tone for peace.’
“In not condemning terrorism, Cllr McCann appears to many people to be supporting the actions of the Provisional IRA in Enniskillen. Cllr McCann failed to demonstrate any rejection of the brutal, callous actions of Seamus McElwaine, the cross border-serial assassin.”
A statement issued on behalf of the DUP grouping said: “Our protest recognises the huge hurt and anger felt by many innocent victims following his comments.”
It added: “It was widely publicised how Mr McCann refused to condemn the Enniskillen bomb and pledged support to the actions of local IRA terrorist Seamus McElwaine. Tonight our party challenged Mr McCann on his comments and he refused to provide immediate clarity nor an apology.
“We are encouraged that our protest was supported by fellow unionists and other nationalist members. We are forever indebted to those men and women from across Northern Ireland who stood against republican terrorism.”
SDLP councillor John Coyle branded Mr McCann’s remarks “disgusting”.
He added: “Sinn Fein talk about respect, equality and integrity. Well, their view of respect, equality and integrity is clearly very different from mine.”
Cllr McCann has not yet responded to a request for comment.