THE Vice Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council admits he has not spoken to his colleague Stephen McCann about his controversial refusal to condemn the Enniskillen bombing.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Alex Baird joined UUP, DUP and SDLP councillors in walking out of Enniskillen Townhall last Thursday following remarks by Councillor McCann, the Council Chairman, in an interview with this newspaper.
The Sinn Fein politician refused “to go down the road of condemning” the 1987 IRA attack prompting an angry response from unionists, nationalists and victims groups.
Councillor Baird, who would not comment when asked if he condemned Councillor McCann’s remarks, has said exiting of the Council Chamber wasn’t actually a walkout. 
“I don’t look at it as a walkout, we vacated the premises... a walkout is somebody throwing the dummy out of the pram and saying ‘ya boo’ and going,” he told The Impartial Reporter.
In a wide-ranging interview to mark his new role as Fermanagh and Omagh’s second citizen, Councillor Baird:

  • Has spoken of his annoyance over comments Councillor McCann made about their car journey to Dublin
  • Believes the council chairman and vice chairman “should not be saying anything offensive” while in office
  • Does not accept “that two people of the same sex should get married”
  • Does not wish to call himself a feminist

Councillor Baird said he was faced with two options at last week’s Council meeting: stay or go. “I went because I believe it was the right thing to do,” he said. 
Asked if it was a stunt, Councillor Baird said: “I am not going to make any more comments about what happened.”
Asked if withdrawing from the meeting as vice chairman was in protest, he said: “You may well take that from it.” 
Asked to respond to Councillor McCann’s remarks, Councillor Baird said: “That’s going into the political realms, therefore I am not going to make any comment on his comments.”
“Well, had you been asking me,” he added. “I would not have been giving those answers.”
Asked if he condemned the remarks, Councillor Baird said: “I am not going to comment on it.”
He described the Enniskillen bombing as a tragedy and “a terrible waste of life” and added: “I empathise and sympathise with the victims about how they feel with what they said and about what he said.”
Asked if the chairman should resign, Councillor Baird: “That’s a decision for him.”
Councillor McCann also told this newspaper last month about the car journey to the Oireachtas that he shared with Councillor Baird and Chief Executive Brendan Hegarty revealing how the vice chairman “did attempt to sing on the way home.”
“There was no general singsong going on in the car that day. 
“That’s not my recollection of events,” responded Councillor Baird. 
“The representation of the journey there and back was not how I recollect. It annoyed me and I’ll leave it at that,” he said. 
Asked how he rates the Council Chairman, Councillor Baird said he does not “have a value established to him yet.”
“The fact we went in one car left it easier for parking. Six hours is a very short time to make an advised opinion on somebody.”
“A conversation flowed, country music was a common factor. 
“I would say a rapport was established.”
Councillor Baird does not class his Sinn Fein Council colleagues as friends. 
“If it’s a friend as in somebody I would have a drink with then no.”
Last week U.S. President Donald Trump said transgender people could not serve in “any capacity” in the American military. 
Councillor Baird, a former private with the Ulster Defence Regiment, was asked if he thought anyone identifying as transgender should be banned from serving in the army or police force. 
“By that [transgender] is it meant someone who has changed from one gender to the other? 
“I don’t know much about the subject. I can’t see any reason why.”
Asked about his thoughts on homosexuality ahead of this weekend’s Gay Pride event in Belfast, the vice chairman said: “It’s a question of nature or nurture. 
“I am of the opinion that people are born that way”, defining marriage “as a union between a man and a woman.” 
“I don’t understand an awful lot about the actual activities, I need to know more. 
“At the moment I do not accept that two people of the same sex should get married,” he said. 
As for increasing the number of women in politics, Councillor Baird said: “I’d like to see more effective people getting involved in politics.” 
Asked if he is a feminist, Councillor Baird said: “[Justin] Trudeau [Canadian Prime Minister] is a feminist, I read that about him last week. I wondered why, maybe chauvinistically, how a man could be a feminist. I want equality for everyone.” 
Asked if he wanted to achieve rights for women, Councillor Baird said: “As opposed to men? I want rights for everyone.
“I wouldn’t like to call myself as a feminist or not. It’s equal rights for everybody. 
“In the past probably I thought of a feminist as a female promoting female issues,” he said. “I will be vice chairman for everybody. 
“I think the chair and vice chair should not be saying anything that is offensive, or maybe offensive is the wrong... we should be a chair for everyone,” said Councillor Baird.