SINN Fein councillor James McKeown has urged his colleagues in the chamber to “rise above negative politics” and to “engage meaningfully in the best interests of all the people who elected us”.
The Coast Road representative caused a storm at Smiley Buildings last week over the content of his facebook page on the internet. Unionists called for a police investigation and claimed the Carnlough man was in breach of the local government code of conduct by allowing a visitor to the page to state he had a brick that would “look great” in the Boyne tercentenary memorial window in the mayor’s parlour.
An adverse comment about another councillor and Wikipedia references on the Provisional IRA North Antrim Brigade and Oglaigh Na hEireann have since been removed from the site.
Cllr McKeown - who was co-opted on to the council on June 20 to replace Assemblyman Oliver McMullan - declined to comment on the furore last week, but on Monday he issued a statement in which urged colleagues to respect the Sinn Fein mandate and claimed that people would prefer to see councillors working together to ease the pain of the recession.
The statements reads: “In May, Sinn Fein received a mandate from the people of the Coast Road DEA to represent them on Larne Council. Our mandate is as valid and has the same status as that of any and all other councillors. That is democracy.
“I am honoured as an Irish Republican to represent the people of the Coast Road and to uphold that mandate to the best of my ability. I am also determined to represent all the people of the Larne council area, regardless of who they are or whatever their background. In the short time that I have served as a councillor, and for many years before that as a political and community activist, I have worked with and for many individuals, families and communities on a wide range of issues. I look forward to continuing in this work and would welcome the opportunity to do so with the cooperation and assistance of my colleagues in Council.
“Recent issues before the council have left the public wondering what type of representation they are getting. People are struggling to cope with the most austere times in memory. We have a responsibility to work together on their behalf to achieve results which will minimise the impact of the recession.
“I know the council’s powers are quite limited, but by working together with the Assembly, the statutory agencies, the community and voluntary sectors and all the other stake holders I believe we can make a difference. I would ask all concerned to rise above the negative politics of recent weeks and engage meaningfully in the best interests of all the people who elected us.”