The SDLP’s group leader on Newry and Mourne District Council was at a golf club meeting when Sinn Fein pushed through a vote to name a council playground after a convicted IRA gunman.
SDLP councillor Michael Carr confirmed to the News Letter that he was attending an AGM at his golf club where he is incoming captain on Wednesday night last week when Sinn Fein pushed through the vote 15 votes to four.
One SDLP councillor abstained, but the other eight of his party colleagues on the council did not attend the meeting.
The News Letter asked Mr Carr to comment on the fact that he was at a golf club meeting during the vote, and if he could account for the whereabouts of the other seven councillors.
Mr Carr replied that it was “a most unfortunate set of circumstances that so many councillors could not attend”.
He added: “We apologise for that but some councillors genuinely could not attend due to work commitments, illness and significant prearranged engagements. It would be inappropriate to list all councillors and their reasons for absence, particularly if all absent councillors were not asked to account in the same manner.”
But Sammy Heenan, a Newry and Mourne ratepayer whose father was murdered by the IRA in 1985, responded that he was “utterly disappointed at the moral cowardice of the SDLP on this issue”.
He added: “What do you say to that? Surely on this issue Mr Carr is supposed to represent unionist voters too? But to be at a golf club meeting when this was taking place will have severe consequences for community relations. He was also responsible for giving a lead into how the rest of his councillors voted that night.”