DUP councillor suspended after suggesting Prince Philip may have “groomed” the Queen
A DUP councillor has been suspended for suggesting that Prince Philip’s relationship with the Queen could be construed as “grooming”.
Councillor Bill Keery made the comment during a special meeting of North Down and Ards Council last Thursday evening.
During the virtual meeting to allow tributes to the late Duke of Edinburgh, the former Mayor said that “most of what I wanted to say has been said, so I won’t repeat it”, before going on to say something significantly out of keeping with other tributes.
Saying that he had met the duke four times, the DUP veteran said that the future prince “first met Her Majesty when she was a 13 years old. I don’t know how people would view that nowadays – that would be talked about as being groomed.”
The councillor laughed somewhat as he made the comment, suggesting that he thought it was humorous, before adding: “But he eventually ended up marrying Princess Elizabeth in 1947.”
In an email to councillors the following day, the councillor said his comment had been “ill-judged and did not convey what I wished to highlight, which was the bond between HM the Queen and Prince Philip that has endured over so many decades”.
He added: “Whilst I offer an explanation for what I was attempting to convey, there is no excuse for the phrase that was used and I both retract it and offer an unreserved apology.”
When contacted by the News Letter, Cllr Keery – who has an MBE – would only say: “I have made my apology and that’s all I’m saying.”
However, the DUP has now confirmed that he has been suspended.
In a statement, the DUP said: “Cllr Keery has retracted and apologised for the ill-judged comments made at the meeting of Ards & North Down Council. The party officers have suspended Cllr Keery from membership of the party pending further investigation”
In another statement, the DUP councillors on the council said that their colleague’s remark “did not reflect the views of the council group or of the wider party”.
The councillors described what had been said as “distasteful and wholly inappropriate comments and we would totally disassociate ourselves from them”.
The councillors welcomed the party’s suspension of Cllr Keery and said that he was “no longer part of the DUP Council group on Ards and North Down Borough Council”.
TUV councillor Stephen Cooper said he was “appalled at the wording of Alderman Keery’s speech which was in poor taste, profoundly ill judged and utterly disgraceful” and called for the councillor to resign.
Former DUP councillor Tom Smith was deselected by the party two months after going against the party line to vote in favour of lighting up Ards Town Hall in rainbow colours to mark LGBT Awareness Week.
He was subsequently elected as an independent. Cllr Smith said that his former party colleague’s position was “untenable”.
“If a member of Sinn Fein had made such comments people across Northern Ireland, not just here in Ards and North Down, would be outraged – and rightly so. What was said was appalling, the fact that it was said by a unionist councillor is unbelievable.”
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