Bosses at The Sun newspaper have said they are “astonished” after Derry City and Strabane Council issued a formal call on local shopkeepers to stop selling the newspaper.
The council voted by majority to back a motion to this effect tabled by Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher at its September full council meeting on Thursday.
During the meeting, various councillors spoke out against the tabloid.
Councillor Gallagher had tabled a motion that the council “calls on all retailers and vendors of newspapers within the district to request that they stop selling the tabloid, The Sun”.
“Furthermore,” his motion stated, “that we support the group called ‘Total Eclipse of the S*n’ in their endeavours to rid the district of this paper.”
A Sun spokesperson told the Derry Journal newspaper: “We are astonished that in Londonderry - a city that has prided itself on its association with civil liberties and free speech - some elected politicians that think it’s appropriate to push such extreme censorship on its citizens and retailers.”
Speaking during the meeting, councillor Gallagher claimed The Sun, which he branded a ‘rag’, had been involved in campaigns against, among others, Irish and working class people, including the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Miners, and said its untruths around the Hillsborough tragedy had been “uncovered with the courageous help of the Hillsborough families”.
The motion was seconded by independent Councillor Gary Donnelly.
SDLP councillor John Boyle said: “In the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy, The Sun newspaper ran a headline ‘The Truth’. I don’t think some of those people working for this paper would recognise the truth if it bit them.”
He said the paper had caused “immeasurable hurt” to the already grieving Hillsborough families.
He added that asking local retailers in Derry City and Strabane not to sell something might in some instances look like an attack on freedom of speech, but claimed “nothing could be further from the truth”.
“In our opinion people should be free to sell or buy a particular paper. However, we would like if local people would think twice about selling or buying The Sun newspaper.”
Councillor Donnelly branded The Sun ‘anti-Irish’. He also said the paper was ‘anti-trade union’ and ‘pro-Tory’, and was used to break strikes.
The motion was carried by a 27-vote majority. Only one councillor, independent Maurice Devenney, voted against the motion, while seven others from the DUP and UUP abstained.