The Ulster Tower memorial in Thiepval.
A local council has agreed on a raffle process to decide who gets the remaining place to represent the council at an NI centenary event on the Somme battlefields.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council's Corporate Policy and Resources Committee were discussing the issue after Deputy Mayor Ashleen Schenning indicated she was unable to attend the trip in November of this year.
Cllr Schenning had been part of an original team of four selected to attend the £2,494 trip, along with Mayor Richard Holmes, outgoing Mayor Mark Fielding and Veterans' Champion, Cllr Sharon McKillop.
With none of her SDLP colleagues able to attend, Cllr Schenning nominated Cllr Michelle Knight-McQuillan to attend in her absence.
Cllr Sharon McKillop had welcomed the idea of a 'female companion' for the trip.
Cllr Sharon McKillop welcomed the nomination, saying it would be nice to have another female representative accompanying her on the trip.
“I'll be attending the trip and when I heard the Deputy Mayor was going to be a female, I thought it would be great to have a female companion on the trip,” she said.
“I was disappointed she couldn't attend, but this has been brought through the NI100 committee, of which Cllr Knight-McQuillan is Chair.
“She has gone to the trouble of booking at her own expense and it would be reasonable to propose she attends as a representative as council.
“I would also like a female companion from the council to attend as well.”
Cllr Darryl Wilson said any nomination would have been 'autocratic'.
However, some councillors took issue with the nomination, with Cllr Darryl Wilson tabling an amendment to ensure the process was done by raffle.
“This is not a slight against any elected member, but an issue I have with the policy or lack of policy for how this has transpired,” he said.
“I would prefer the democratic process was adhered to throughout this. If one of those people couldn't go, it should be opened up to the council again, as has been done in he past.
“Expressions of interest were put out, names went into a hat and it was drawn that way. If a Mayor or Deputy Mayor can subsitute at their whim, that's an autocratic decision.
“It would be a dangerous precedent to set.”
Cllr William Duddy told the committee he didn't mind who went on the trip, but said it was not the Deputy Mayor's position to nominate a replacement.
“I was shocked when I read this report, considering it was mentioned that if somebody couldn't go, then it would be done, as we have in the past, by raffle,” he said.
“I don't think it's the Deputy Mayor's position to nominate, it's a Council position and it's the democratic process that should decide who goes.
“It has never been done by nomination from someone who couldn't go and it's not fair or equitable.”
Cllr Alan McLean said he hoped the only person to enter such a raffle would be Cllr Knight-McQuillan herself, and used a football analogy to make his point.
“If a player lies down injured, sometime the opposing team kicks the ball into touch,” he said.
“Maybe in this case, if we go down the line of the raffle, it's one of those occasions when the ball gets kicked into touch and Cllr Knight-McQuillan is the only person puts her name forward.
“She is the NI100 representative, and she should probably have been on the list at the very start. Maybe other members should consider not bothering this time round.”
The knife-edge vote resulted in 5 for and 5 against, with two Sinn Féin councillors abstaining.
Cllr Norman Hillis, sitting in the Chair's position in place of Cllr Knight-McQuillan while the issue was discussed, cast his deciding vote in support of the amendment.
After Cllr Knight-McQuillan returned to the meeting, Cllr Sharon McKillop indicated her displeasure at the decision.
“I feel really strongly about this. If I was you, I would be taking the decision made at Item 11 personally,” she told the Bann DUP councillor.
The issue will now progress to next week's full council meeting for ratification.
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