Did Craigavon have legal grounds to cancel Duffy booking?

Regarding the cancelled meeting the other the night, Craigavon Borough Council stated, “Following legal advice, a further discussion with council officers and a representative of the family took place earlier today. As a consequence of that discussion the offer of accommodation was withdrawn. The meeting will no longer take place at North Lurgan Community Centre.”

Slugger has obtained a copy of the form that was used to book the community hall in Kilwilkie the other night… You can view a readable version here… And the conditions under which the hall can be hired… We’ve blanked out all personal details, but suffice to say it was booked in the name of one of Colin Duffy’s family, not an organisation…The only official council policy that is stated anywhere is on the first page – in relation to a no smoking policy. The second page sets out the regulations governing the use of town halls/community centres – again no mention of the grounds which the council says the meeting allegedly breached.

Also note that page 1 states that ” This booking is not confirmed until this form is completed, payment in advance is received, and official confirmation of this booking is received by the applicant/s by means of a receipt for monies paid”. You will also see from the form, which is the council’s own contractual form, the receipt number confirming the booking.

So we are into interesting territory here. DUP MLA Stephen Moutray, who is also DUP group leader on Craigavon Council, said: “Many within the borough understandably were outraged that supporters of Colin Duffy would be using council facilities to promote their twisted ideology.”

Hmmm… I’m by no means the first on Slugger to note the parallels with an incident down in Newry in which twelve Sinn Fein councillors and five SDLP colleagues were ruled against by a court for breaching equality legislation when barring the FAIR victims group from using council premises…

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  • Mick

    An interesting post, the statement from the DUP group leader on Craigavon Council is clearly based on his own political prejudices. Yes, some bigoted council tax payers may well feel that supporters of Colin Duffy would be using council facilities to promote their twisted ideology.”

    However, I am certain that many others would think the opposite. Indeed when was it the job of the DUP leader of Craigavon council to refuse access to local council facilities on the bases of someone’s political beliefs.

    Clearly Stephen Moutray has no confidence in the rule of law as he clearly wishes to find Duffy guilty in advance of any trial. In truth Moutray’s behavior reeks of the bad old days of the Orange State, when a Republican was guilty for simply being an Irish Republican.

  • Dave

    “Many within the borough understandably were outraged that supporters of Colin Duffy would be using council facilities to promote their twisted ideology.”

    Which is as blatant a statement in support of censorship of political views as you’re likely to find.

  • joeCanuck

    The curse of the small town. In a city no one would have known who the person booking was related to.

  • Scamallach

    “All approvals are subject to cancellation without notice”. What’s the problem? Okay, as contract terms go, these aren’t very fair, bearing in mind you could be holding some sort of profit-making enterprise, but it’s clearly stated in the contract.

  • 6countyprod

    Are we looking an example of some people using the freedoms and benefits of a democratic society in order to destroy it?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Mick Hall,

    “some bigoted council tax payers may well feel that supporters of Colin Duffy would be using council facilities to promote their twisted ideology”

    Not that I agree with the cancellation – but, only “bigotted tax payers”?

    Perhaps your “own political prejudices”?

  • “All approvals are subject to cancellation without notice”.

    I don’t think it’s the period of notice that is at issue, but the reasons for the cancellation. You can’t get out of the requirement not to discriminate by putting something in the small print.

  • Scamallach

    Horseman,

    The fact that they took legal advice and then went ahead with cancelling it implies that they felt they were on safe ground.

    But you are to an extent right – I was thinking along the lines of this hall being privately owned, when of course it belongs to the council.

  • joeCanuck

    it belongs to the council.

    Well they hold it in trust for the people.
    There’s no justification for refusing the use of a public facility because you don’t like the politics of the people involved.

    using the freedoms and benefits of a democratic society in order to destroy it

    If they were to hold a seditious meeting, there are laws to deal with that, after such a thing has happened, of course.

  • Anyone else with a long memory? Craigavon Borough Council v St. Peter’s GAC ring any bells.

    In a city no one would have known who the person booking was related to.

    They would if dissident republicans had been sending press releases to the media announcing the media, which is how Craigavon found out what it was all about. Not that I would have banned the meeting – these guys are so desperate to be martyrs, the worst thing you can do is not allow them to be.

  • The Raven

    Sammy, I was there not long after that case, and remember certain disbarred ex-Councillors just champing at the bit to get back in there. Some did, I believe.

    Can I just say, I think there have been cases where Councils have stepped in before, but never at the behest of an elected member…it’s usually on “health and safety” grounds (translate “we can’t guarantee you’ll get out alive, we’re pulling the plug”). Having a look around now to see if there are any handy examples.

    Spookily the submit word is “hit”….

  • Some did, I believe.

    All three UUP candidates in the 2007 Assembly elections in Upper Bann were councillors previously surcharged and disbarred over the St. Peter’s GAC affair.

  • hr

    Is it not a breach of section 75 legislation, ie the council is discriminating on the grounds of ‘political opinion’? I don’t agree with Duffy one bit but equality legislation needs to be upheld by local authorities.

  • Gabriel

    Colin duffy has been charged not actually found guilty.Regardless of peoples views or beliefs this should be remembered.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Councillors could find themselves in the s**t,didn’t Willie Frazer sue Newry over something like this?