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Sinn Féin councillor confirms complaint over ‘sexist remark’ in UDR debate after no apology

"My father served on the UDR and he served valiantly like many, many others did. I am not apologising for my words and am happy to see this process go the whole way."

A Sinn Fein councillor has confirmed she will make a formal complaint over alleged sexist language directed at her during a recent debate calling for a permanent tribute to UDR Greenfinches.

Councillor Catherine Nelson says she will lodge her complaint with the Local Government Commissioner for Standards.

And the subject of that complaint, Councillor Kyle Savage, has refused to apologise saying he has nothing to apologise for.

The Office of the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards’ purpose is to promote and regulate local government ethical standards. It considers complaints from those who believe a councillor may have failed to comply with Northern Ireland local government code of conduct for councillors.

If it determines a councillor failed to comply with the code it can censure the councillor in question; suspend or partially suspend the councillor from being a councillor for a period of up to a year or; disqualify the councillor from being, or becoming, a councillor for up to five years.

Councillor Catherine Nelson claims the sexist remarks were made towards her by UUP Councillor Savage during a debate on a motion calling for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to create a lasting tribute to the role the women of the Ulster Defence Regiment played in “the defeat of terrorism in Northern Ireland”.

The motion, brought forward by UUP Alderman, Glenn Barr, and seconded by his party colleague Alderman Ian Burns, was heard at the council’s monthly meeting at the end of last month.

Outlining her party’s opposition at that time, Craigavon representative, Councillor Nelson, said: “It is blatant electioneering from a party so numbered in its days that it is deeply seeking to find relevance.

“There is absolutely nothing to celebrate in a regiment that is so discredited that even the British government was forced to disband it.

“In the most rigorous of terms we will be opposing this motion tonight.”

In response, Councillor Kyle Savage said: “I suppose just to quickly respond to that little tantrum that Cllr Nelson had there in her response. I speak as a son of a proud member of the Ulster Defence Regiment which was my father.

“He served this country well,” he said. “He also served this council well and I will take no dictation from people that have represented terrorist organisations in the past.

“Certainly, she needs to take a look at her history. The Ulster Defence Regiment was formed to fight terrorism created by her cohorts and perhaps she needs to take a wee history lesson on that.”

Cllr Nelson immediately asked Cllr Savage to “reflect on the sexism he just displayed in the chamber” and warned if an apology was not forthcoming she would be making an official complaint to the ombudsman.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service this week, Cllr Nelson confirmed she had not received an apology and said “a complaint will be lodged”.

Councillor Kyle Savage said he would not be apologising and was unclear as to what was sexist about his remarks.

“I’m not apologising, I don’t see what is sexist about a tantrum,” he said.

“What saddens me is the accusation she made. She mentioned paramilitary involvement in the UDR and I take that as a grave insult.

“I think she needs to reflect on the language she is using.

“My father served on the UDR and he served valiantly like many, many others did. I am not apologising for my words and am happy to see this process go the whole way,” he said.

The UDR was amalgamated with the Royal Irish Rangers in 1992 to form the Royal Irish Regiment.

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