Independent Councillor Sorcha McAnespy was laughed at and mocked by some of her male colleagues as she made remarks in the Council Chamber in Omagh on Tuesday night.
The exchanges which were observed by this newspaper came as the councillor raised her concerns about Brexit and recent meetings she has had with the leader and deputy leader of Fianna Fail, Michael Martin and Dara Callery.
Councillor McAnespy, a member of the party’s national executive, was attempting to make the point that she has had “direct access” to TDs in Leinster House and opportunities to discuss the issue of Brexit. At one point she recalled how she had spoken to Mr. Martin whom she referred to as “the leader of my party”.
But using the term “my party” resulted in her being mocked by some of her Council colleagues sitting nearby, with one heard saying: “Is it your party now?” 
This comment was picked up in the Council’s own recording of the meeting which can be accessed on its website. 
Others laughed, repeating the term again, and making fun of her remark.
One of those councillors was Ulster Unionist Councillor Victor Warrington who was sitting opposite and was observed by this newspaper laughing at Councillor McAnespy. His colleague Alex Baird and Sinn Fein’s Frankie Donnelly and the DUP’s Errol Thompson were also observed laughing.
Yesterday The Impartial Reporter asked each of the councillors the following questions: Do you think that as an elected representative ‘laughing down’ a colleague – in this case a female colleague – is an appropriate thing to do?, Did you laugh because she is a woman?, Is sexism an issue in the Fermanagh and Omagh Council Chamber?.
In response, Councillor Warrington said: “I refute any allegations that I laughed down or jeered at my Council colleague Sorcha McAnespy [last night] as she was speaking. 
“I spoke at length to Sorcha [this morning] and look forward to the continuing professional working relationship with her for the remainder of this Council,” he said.
He said even though they are from completely different political backgrounds “we have a good relationship on Council”.
“There is no sexism or any evidence of sexism on Council,” said Councillor Warrington. 
Councillor Baird said: “I do not recall “chuckling” as you have stated. Indeed I did not hear Sorcha make the comments.
“In relation to your queries. While light hearted banter occurs in the Chamber no one should be intentionally offended. Sexism is not an issue in the Chamber.”
Councillor Donnelly did not respond, instead a Sinn Fein spokesman acting on his behalf said: “Sinn Féin is completely opposed to all forms of sexism in society including in democratically elected chambers.”
Councillor Thompson did not respond by the time this newspaper went to press yesterday, nor did the DUP press office. 
Asked about the events of Tuesday night, Councillor McAnespy said: “The point I was trying to make when I was rudely heckled was that I had been able to highlight the very shocking revelations that had been presented to us by Brexit Law NI who has addressed our last Council Brexit meeting.”
“In my opinion if the members who were heckling me really cared about the impacts of Brexit they would allow me to speak unimpeded instead of trying to mock my efforts,” she said.
Councillor McAnespy added: “Unfortunately this sort of behaviour has been a constant feature of meetings at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. 
“One thing that I cannot be accused of is slinging mud or participating in divisive politics. 
“I am rather disappointed that so much time is wasted in the Council Chamber with political parties exchanging insults, meaning that issues pertinent to the people of the district are sometimes not heard due to time restraints,” she said. 
Today (Friday) is International Women’s Day.