Irish Republican News · November 8, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Prosecutions could oust nationalist councillors
Prosecutions could oust nationalist councillors

garydonnellyelected.jpg

A prominent Derry republican could be robbed of his poll-topping performance in recent local elections after being being handed an extraordinary six month prison sentence for graffiti.

Last month, Independent councillor Gary Donnelly (pictured) and two other men received a conviction in relation to writing anti-internment protest slogans on Derry’s walls.

A leading member of the hardline republican 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Mr Donnelly shocked observers when he topped the poll his ward to the new Derry and Strabane super-council last May.

But following his sentencing on Wednesday, he could be barred from continuing as an elected member, based on local government laws previously used to block some Sinn Fein members from becoming councillors.

Two other men, Terry Porter and Liam Brogan, were also charged alongside Mr Donnelly after the PSNI secretly filmed and photographed them painting signs on the walls overlooking Derry’s Bogside.

All three were sentenced to six months in prison after they failed to pay the alleged cost of removing the paint of #2,300 (equivalent to $3,600, or 2900 euro) set at an earlier hearing.

The three men say they will appeal against the court decision. If the appeal fails, Mr Donnelly will automatically lose his council seat.

Anyone sentenced to more than three months in prison is barred from sitting in local government. The legislation was introduced after Sinn Fein first contested council elections in 1985.

Donnelly’s lawyer told the court tourists had for decades visited the area to view the graffiti on Derry’s walls.

He said: “Writing political slogans had been a long standing tradition and there were no objections from local residents to the graffiti.”

He also revealed that a third party had offered to pay for the repairs but his client and his two co-accused had rejected the offer.

If Mr Donnelly’s appeal fails he will also be barred from standing for election for the next five years.

In a comment posted to his Facebook page, Mr Donnelly pointed out that there is still graffitti etched into the wall in support of Home Rule and from World War Two.

He said: “Those who look after the wall pointed out that the wall has always been used for political graffiti”.

McSHANE TARGETED BY DPP

Meanwhile, a nationalist councillor in County Antrim councillor is set to face a separate court action for “disorderly behaviour” -- despite being told the case was being dropped.

Independent Moyle councillor Padraig McShane was told by the Crown prosecutors this week they have reviewed allegations made against him during the height of the Union Jack flags crisis in 2012.

News of the development comes just weeks after his family was forced to leave their Ballycastle home after it was badly damaged in an arson attack by the unionist paramilitary UDA.

It is believed the allegations, which Mr McShane denies, refer to a verbal exchange between him and another man in the council chamber during a public meeting.

At the time a loyalist protest connected to the Union flag dispute was taking place outside the council chamber.

The matter was later reported to the PSNI but was quickly dropped. However, Crown prosecutors now claim “there is sufficient evidence” and it is now “in the public interest” for Mr McShane to be prosecuted.

© 2014 Irish Republican News