DUP councillors in Coleraine have paid almost thirty thousands Euros towards a legal bill over a decision to exclude Sinn Féin from last year’s Christmas dinner.
Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard mounted a legal challenge against the council when former DUP mayor Timothy Deans failed to invite him to the party.
As an equality issue, Mr Leonard pointed out that as the bill for the mayor’s Christmas event was being footed by ratepayers Mr Deans had no right to withhold an invitation.
It has now emerged that the DUP in Coleraine paid more than 18,000 pounds sterling towards the council’s legal costs in the action earlier this year.
Mr Leonard said the DUP was forced to pay for “their crass political stupidity”.
He said DUP councillors had “dug deep into their pockets and each given over two thousand pounds”.
“Legally, financially, and morally, it has been shown to the public that the DUP mayor acted wrongly,” he said. But the decision was also contrary to equality legislation.
“That is more important than the personal loss to the DUP councillors,” he said.
“If they had not been so politically and crassly stupid about this issue, it would not have happened at all.”
The case had been settled out of court in February after lawyers for the DUP councillors advised them the High Court was likely to find in favour of Mr Leonard.
Mayor Timothy Deans agreed to write an open letter of apology to Mr Leonard in which he admitted he had been ignorant of the law regarding equality matters in local government.
DUP councillor William McClure insisted the party was not forced to pay the legal fees but did so because it did not wish to pass the bill on to ratepayers.