By Dominic Ponsford
The Conservative leader of Peterbor-ough City Council has been sacked after subjecting a Belfast Telegraph reporter to a foul-mouthed tirade of anti-Irish abuse.
His comments ended up on the front page of the newspaper and the resulting controversy has culminated in a no-confidence vote for the council leader.
The Telegraph celebrated his departure with the front page headline: “Goodbye, and good riddance.”
The saga began when Carrickfergus Council, in Northern Ireland, wrote to Peterborough Council seeking its support for an inquiry into the 2001 suicide of soldier Paul Cochrane at Drumadd Army Barracks, Armagh.
According to the family of the young soldier he had been badly treated at the barracks which was then under the command of Colonel Tim Collins, who was later accused of war crimes in Iraq.
The letter was returned with a written response from Peterborough Council leader Neville Sanders stating: “Soldiers do get killed, that is what they are paid for.”
When Telegraph reporter Jonathan McCambridge phoned Sanders for a comment he got more than he bargained for.
McCambridge told Press Gazette: “I thought I was being fairly polite and put it to him that some people in Carrickfergus Council had been upset by his comments.
“He said he didn’t give an eff what Carrickfergus Council thought, or indeed anyone else in Northern Ireland.
“He said he’d be happy if we all effed away off and ran our own affairs and that he was fed up with paying taxes for lazy Irish bastards.”
Immediately after publication of the story Conservative head office announced an investigation into the councillor’s comments and Northern Ireland spokesman Quentin Davies described them as revolting.
The story was widely followed up on television and in other newspapers across Northern Ireland and in Cambridgeshire.
Sanders was subsequently suspended from the Conservative party and the matter came to a head last week when Peterborough Council held a vote of no confidence in him.
McCambridge went along to the meeting and took a letter addressed to Sanders from the Cochrane family who had been upset by his comments.
Sanders never arrived at the meeting and was voted out as leader of the council by a margin of 31 votes to 18.
McCambridge said: “Maybe if he had backtracked after he made his comments to me he could have saved himself – but when he was contacted by Five Live he repeated his remarks and went even further.”
He said: “It was an outburst from a bygone age.”