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'It was a disgraceful comment' - political leaders condemn racial insult made at mayor's ceremony

PUBLISHED: 13:23 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:23 28 June 2019

Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Carl Smith, described the racist insult as disgraceful. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Carl Smith, described the racist insult as disgraceful. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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Political leaders in a Norfolk borough have called an alleged racist insult made to a council member, "disgraceful".

Michael Jeal is the first mayor in Great Yarmouth to have a black chaplain. Picture: Liz CoatesMichael Jeal is the first mayor in Great Yarmouth to have a black chaplain. Picture: Liz Coates

Speaking at a council meeting on Thursday night, mayor of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Michael Jeal told members a person had said it was a shame 'Great Yarmouth now has a Geordie mayor and a black chaplain'.

The individual who has not been named made the remarks at Mr Jeal's mayor-making ceremony.

The mayor's chaplain is Father Anthony Nwankwo.

This year is the first time a Great Yarmouth mayor has chosen a black chaplain.

Leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth Trevor Wainwright. Picture: Ella WilkinsonLeader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth Trevor Wainwright. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Mr Jeal, from North Shields near Newcastle, said if he heard such a comment repeated, the incident would be escalated beyond the council.

"I am proud that I will be the mayor for Great Yarmouth's first ever Pride parade and I hope that it will be the first of many to come," he said.

"However, personally I feel it is disgraceful that somebody would say at my mayor-making that it is a shame Yarmouth has a Geordie mayor and a black chaplain."

Mr Jeal was first elected to serve as a councillor for the Nelson ward in 1986 and had his first stint as mayor in 2010/11.

He replaced Mary Coleman in the role for the upcoming 12 months earlier this year.

Leaders of the borough's two main political parties, Carl Smith and Trevor Wainwright condemned the racist comment.

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Mr Smith said: "These types of comments are disgraceful and cannot be tolerated."

After the meeting, Mr Jeal said he wanted to draw a line under the incident and move on.

Councillor in the Nelson ward, Kerry Robinson-Payne, added: "I think it was a disgraceful comment.

"I am delighted we have events like Pride coming up that show toleration and diversity is being celebrated in the town, but something needs to be said about the fact people still say these terrible things."

Another major talking point at the meeting was the council's decision to give the green light to a new £26m leisure facility in Marine Parade.

The multi-million pound centre will replace the Marina Centre which opened in 1981.

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