“This isn’t an issue about the mayor, the mayor was using his democratic right to use that casting vote…”

So says the Derry and Strabane District Sinn Féin Councillor Eric McGinley, a party colleague of the mayor in question, Sinn Féin Councillor, Maolíosa McHugh.  The Sinn Féin mayor had previously declined to meet Prince Charles when he visited County Londonderry last year to meet victims of flooding.  In his place, representing the office of the mayor, SDLP councillor John Boyle, the deputy mayor of Derry and Strabane, accompanied Prince Charles during the visit.

The reason for the Sinn Féin statement defending the Sinn Féin mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council this time is that he used his casting vote to reject an invitation to the Council to send a representative to a garden party at Buckingham Palace to celebrate those from the district being named on the Queen’s New Year’s Honour’s List.  According to the BBC report

However, Sinn Féin councillor Eric McGinley defended Mr McHugh.

“This isn’t an issue about the mayor, the mayor was using his democratic right to use that casting vote,” he told the BBC.

“Just to explain, there was an invitation extended to council from the Department of Communities to attend a garden party in Buckingham Palace.

“We were more than willing to accommodate anyone going to Buckingham Palace but the key thing was that it shouldn’t be at a cost to the ratepayers.

Except that, according to the Belfast Telegraph report, the motion Councillor McGinley actually proposed at the “confidential” meeting went further in that it declared that anyone who attended the garden party “would not be officially representing the Council”.  How Sinn Féin expected that to work in practice isn’t entirely clear, since the invitation was for the Council to attend…  From the Belfast Telegraph report

Derry City and Strabane councillors last night voted to snub an invitation to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party this summer, sparking unionist uproar.

The council received an invitation from the Palace to attend an event to celebrate those from the district being named on the Queen’s New Year’s Honour’s List.

But a confidential council meeting at Derry’s Guildhall ended in uproar when a motion calling for the Sinn Fein mayor, the SDLP deputy mayor or a chairperson from one of the committees to accept the invite was voted down – resulting in the invitation being ignored.

A motion was initially brought forward by Sinn Fein’s Eric McGinley proposing that if anyone wanted to attend they could do so and pay for it themselves, but that they would not be officially representing the council.

The proposal was amended by SDLP councillor Martin Reilly to accept the invite and, as in the past, if the mayor or deputy mayor couldn’t attend, a chairperson from one of the committees could do so on behalf of the council.

When the amendment was voted on, 15 members voted for and 15 against – leaving Mayor Maoliosa McHugh with the casting vote. He voted against it, resulting in catcalls of “shame” and “where’s your respect?” from unionists.

Indeed.