Queen ‘tweet row’ rumbles on in council

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A notice of motion seeking an apology from Sinn Fein’s Patrice Hardy over a tweet she sent about the Queen could be referred to the NI Ombudsman.

Legal advice had been sought on the motion by Mid & East Antrim Council CEO Anne Donaghy after a point of order had been raised by SF Councillor Paul Maguire when it came before the reconvened March meeting of Council on the proposal of Ald Gregg McKeen, seconded by Cr Timothy Gaston.

Mrs Donaghy told the latest monthly meeting on April 4 that the legal advice received “concludes with the recommendation that the matter which is subject of the motion should be in the first instance referred by the proposer Cr McKeen and the seconder Clr Gaston to the ombudsman for breach of the code of conduct for councillors”.

She also said that after determination of the matter it can be brought back to the chamber for re-examination

She added that the matter is, in the immediate future, “in the hands of Cllr McKeen and Cllr Gaston”.

Responding, Ald McKeen said he was “disappointed” in the information brought to the meeting by the Chief Executive.

He said he had also taken advice and stated: “I will look at the wording of the motion and I will put forward to resubmitting maybe another form of words”.

The motion which had been proposed at the March meeting by Ald Gregg McKeen, seconded by Cr Timothy Gaston,read: “That this council demands a public apology and states that we have no confidence in Cllr Hardy as Vice Chair of the Community Planning Committee, after her recent derogatory publication on social media about Her Majesty The Queen”.

The previous month, Cr Hardy had posted a picture of herself in front of a portrait of the Queen in the council chamber on Twitter stating “Big Liz says Dia dhuit”; a greeting in Irish. She subsequently removed it.

The notice of motion was adjourned by Council’s CEO at the reconvened March meeting after a point of order was raised by Cr Paul Maguire.

Cllr Maguire had stated: “This motion states that this council demands a public apology. Clearly this council demanding a public apology is a sanction and is clearly ultra vires the duties and responsibilities of the council. Neither has council the legal competence to impose any sanction upon a member, the mandate for dealing with this motion lies within the Local Government Act NI 2014...and therefore is a matter is not for discussion by council but for the NI Ombudsman.”