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Sinn Fein accuse Council of censorship while former Chair brands Centenary motion ‘a little embarrassing’

A Sinn Féin Councillor on Fermanagh and Omagh Council, Stephen McCann, has called for urgent clarity on the alleged censoring of a motion proposing to create space for planning constitutional change in Ireland as the centenary of the Government of Ireland Act approaches.

The West Tyrone councillor said: “This December marks the 100th anniversary of the Government of Ireland Act being passed, resulting in the partitioning of the island of Ireland.

“The partitioning of Ireland has been detrimental to the social, economic and political development of our island. 100 years on, partition continues to fail all the citizens of this island.

“The censoring of a motion on the need to create space for dialogue on how we build a better future and a new Ireland by the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh Council, Chris Smyth, is reckless and unnecessary.

“Chair Smyth has failed to provide any rationale for why he ruled the motion to be incomplete and inadmissible,” he said.

Councillor McCann continued: “There are very serious and genuine concerns that the decision by Chris Smyth to rule this motion as inadmissible is politically motivated, and raises many questions as to the motivation.

“In the absence of any explanation for this move, Sinn Féin will be considering legal advice.

“There is an unstoppable conversation under way on the constitutional future of our island and the creation of a new Ireland.

“This conversation is inclusive and open to all. It is deeply disappointing that Chris Smyth has made attempts to close this conversation down,” said Councillor McCann.

However, Councillor Chris Smyth, prior to his subsequent resignation as Council Chairman, did not allow the motion to go forward in its current form, branding it “a hack job”.

“To be completely honest, I am really surprised that Councillor McCann has made an issue out of this,” he said.

“While I am prepared to give all parties a degree of latitude in their motions, the motion put forward by Sinn Fein was ‘a hack job’.

“It’s pretty clear to me that it was thrown together from a number of sources in a hurry, resulting in a myriad of errors.

“To name a few, we have sentences without capital letters, punctuation in the weirdest places and some of the paragraphs don’t make sense as presented!

“That’s before we even get into the content of the motion, which, while not the reason I didn’t allow it, is an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between the Unionist and Nationalist members of our council, which – in the middle of a pandemic – I think is shameful.

“The motion, as presented, still even includes what I can only assume are speaking notes beside one of the paragraphs!” said Councillor Smyth.

He continued: “Councillor McCann has submitted high-quality motions before, so I can only assume that this was either delegated or rushed.

“I’m genuinely shocked that Councillor Chris McCaffrey, a schoolteacher by trade, didn’t raise some objection to the motion in its current form.

“I was more than happy for Sinn Fein to take a little time to go away and rewrite their motion and resubmit, and if Councillor McCann had the decency to contact me, before running to the press and lawyers, I would have explained that to him.

“I have never been one for publicly exposing people’s mistakes, and certainly didn’t want to make a big deal out of this issue.”

The then Chairman concluded: “As it is, I feel like I have no option but to expose the inaccuracies in this motion for what they are, which I realise must be a little embarrassing for him, and for that, I apologise.”

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