UUP man issues apology for using ‘offensive and inappropriate language’ towards council colleague

UUP Alderman Jim Dillon (left) and DUP Councillor Andrew Ewing.
UUP Alderman Jim Dillon (left) and DUP Councillor Andrew Ewing.

A veteran UUP councillor has made a public apology to a fellow Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council member for using “offensive and inappropriate language” towards him during an altercation at an official council-run function.

Alderman Jim Dillon, who represents Downshire West, made the apology to Lisburn South DUP Councillor Andrew Ewing at Tuesday night’s full council meeting at Lagan Valley Island. The UUP man also sent Cllr Ewing a letter of apology.

The apology relates to comments made by Alderman Dillon during an altercation between the two men at last year’s Lisburn and Castlereagh City Business Awards dinner at the La Mon Hotel, which resulted in Cllr Ewing making a complaint to the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards.

Following a mediation process, Alderman Dillon, a long-serving councillor and former Mayor of Lisburn, agreed to apologise to Cllr Ewing for the remarks he made at the event on March 11, 2016.

In his letter to Cllr Ewing, Alderman Dillon stresses that he would “never set out to deliberately offend or cause grievance to anyone, most particularly another elected member”. However, he goes on to say: “I, without reservation, wish to express my sincere regret for the use of offensive and inappropriate language, particularly given we were both at a public event.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I apologise for the hurt you have experienced and certainly I have no difficulty acknowledging it is a turn of events that should not have happened or will be repeated.

“I recognise that in making such offensive comments at a public reception, in front of your friends, colleagues and members of the public, my actions fell far short of the standard of conduct which the public have a right to expect of an elected member. I accept that my conduct failed to comply with the requirements of the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors and, in particular, the requirement to show respect and consideration for others.”

Alderman Dillon’s letter concludes: “I am also prepared to acknowledge this in the appropriate public forum and would hope that this could draw a line under the matter for us as colleagues so that we can continue to work together for the betterment of all our constituents.”

Speaking to the Ulster Star on Wednesday, Alderman Dillon said the matter was now resolved and he had no further comment to make on the issue.

In a statement issued by the local DUP group leader, Cllr Ewing said: “I accept the apology made by UUP Alderman Jim Dillon.

“The comments he made towards me were unnecessary and disturbing. The nature of his comments are not becoming of an elected representative and caused significant distress and anxiety.

“I am pleased a fulsome apology has been made following the incident and I hope an incident of this nature does not happen in the future.

“I would like to acknowledge the professional and impartial handling of the investigation by the Office of the Local Government Commissioner’s Office during this difficult time.”

A spokesperson for the Acting Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards said Alderman Dillon had made an apology in line with the Commissioner’s Alternative Actions Policy and confirmed that the matter is now closed.