A tense meeting first Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Regeneration and Community Committee in the new term, saw three councillors “muted” on the instructions of Chairman Tommy Maguire, as they tried to raise points over the murder of George Floyd.

While members unanimously supported the illumination of Enniskillen Castle and Strule Arts Centre in yellow, there was less harmony in discussions.

Councillor John Coyle tabled the discussion and began by commending the establishing of an electronic Book of Condolence and: “We are all horrified and outraged at the scenes of oppression by police against the black community and peaceful demonstrators in the United States. I understand people want to show solidarity with the struggle for justice for the black community who feel the need to protest, but I am also keenly aware that in the middle of a Covid pandemic, we have a responsibility to do all we can to prevent further transmission of this virus which is claiming lives.”

This was backed by Councillor Anthony Feely, Sinn Fein who said: “I was appalled at the killing. I couldn’t even look at it on social media I was that sickened. It brought me back to the time of Martin Luther King’s death in 1968 and the riots in America at that time. The phrase was, Washington was on fire.”

He explained later becoming a Bruce Springsteen fan, describing him as “a great man for the black people. He wrote a song about a young man who was shot in New York. He was taking his wallet out and police thought it was a gun and shot him 41 times in the back. Police got off. They walked scot free. When Springsteen played that song at a concert, there’d be an eerie silence over the whole stadium.”

Councillor Feely referred to another shooting in 2014 causing: “Wild, wild riots in Florida. That’s just a couple of instances I know of. I appeal to everybody to support the black people. I’m glad we are trying to do something for the black community in America.”

But Independent Councillor Emmet McAleer was not afforded the same opportunity to voice his consternation.

He said: “I take issue with some things said in terms of the overhanded, overzealous policing of some of the protests we have witnessed, which were well organised and socially distanced.”

But cutting in the Chairman advised: “I’m trying to keep the discussion specifically to councillors who wish to make some eulogy or words of support for George Floyd’s family and the wider population in America. I don’t want to get side-tracked into the discussion of what happened at the weekend here there and everywhere.”

Councillor McAleer responded: “With due respect, words from us are all well and good but if we can take any kind of action towards the overhanded policing …”

He was again cut off, and although he tried to continue, his words were drowned out by the Chair who ordered IT to: “Mute that Councillor. You were forewarned . That’s not the issue we are discussing and you objected to the Chair telling you to be quiet.”

Councillor Eamon Keenan, Independent suffered a similar fate and on being called to speak was warned by the Chairman: “Have your say on the life and death of George Floyd. We are not going into any other policing issues.”

Councillor Keenan commended the opening of the Book of Condolence and expressed revulsion on what occurred.

He tried to speak on the Black Lives Matter protests but got as far as stating: “Legislation has been pushed through …before he was cut of by the Chair.

Councillor Keenan spoke out: “Then right to protest is a human right,” but was again cut off by the Chair who ordered IT: “Please silence that councillor. Anyone that disrespects the Chair will be silenced. This will be a respectfully, eulogy. Sorry if councillors feel they need to get into something else.”

Bernice Swift, Independent said: “I fully support the proposal on this state murder issue. We are all abhorred by it and it’s truly repulsive …We have all been at the receiving end of racism. “

She disclosed being in New York at the time of the murder which Councillor Feely had mentioned and: “I stood in every protest about that horrible, heinous crime. He was shot 41 times and it is till etched in my memory. It’s good we are recognising and remembering all those who have been murdered by the states.”

The Chairman thanked Councillor Swift for: “Sticking to the point.”

However, Ulster Unionist Councillor Victor Warrington didn’t fare so well.

Supporting the proposal, he added: “Of course every life matters, regardless of race, colour, religion or anything. But I take offence at Councillor Swift’s continued mention of the state….”

He too was cut off.

Reminding Councillor Warrington the discussion was specific to Mr. Floyd the Chairman said: “If you don’t wish to add to the eulogy, that’s fine but do not side-track into any minor dispute of expression by other councillors. There are some emotional expressions in their contributions.”

Councillor Warrington said, “I want to add there were 10 members of the British Forces murdered by the IRA …”

That’s where his comments ended as the Chairman intervened: “You’re going to have to be silenced”

He instructed IT to: “Silence Victor Warrington. It’s unfortunate some people get side-tracked.”

Finally, Councillor Errol Thompson, Democratic Unionist confirmed his party’s support adding: “Black lives matter, but all lives matter,” before being cut off.

The Chairman told members: “I said this was to be specific.”

The discussion was closed and matters moved swiftly to the next item.