A row has erupted over a group of Travellers who have moved into 22 spaces at a popular seaside car park in Co Londonderry.

Limavady Borough Council said yesterday that it will take legal action to remove the three families from the popular Benone Tourist complex if they continue their illegal stay.

But now a DUP councillor has been accused of racism after he hit out against the Travellers - calling them "gypsies" - and claiming that they deterred tourists from visiting the scenic strand.

Speaking to the News Letter, Councillor Leslie Cubitt accused the families of using the golf course as "a toilet" and leaving dog and human excrement, as well as litter, at the beauty spot.

"They call these people Travellers; we would have called them gypsies in my day and I wish they would travel instead of taking up all that space and driving the visitors away," he said.

"There is a caravan site nearby where you can pay to stay. These people did not pay and the council should take legal action."

"I saw visitors, including those who had paid, turning away when they saw them there."

He added: "I blame the council more, though. They are supposed to keep the site secure but there is a gap between the security barrier that you could drive a horse and cart - or in this case a caravan - through."

He said that he expected the Travellers would move on before the 28-day eviction period and said they had stayed at the same site on many occasions.

His controversial remarks have been branded 'racist', an incitement to hatred and in breach of the Race Relations Order by Hughie Friel of the Irish Travellers Movement and support groups.

But Mr Cubitt denied charges of racism, quoting the Collins Dictionary definition of gypsy as 'a member of the travelling people in Europe'.

"There is certainly nothing racist in that interpretation," he said.

"I am elected to represent the people of Limavady borough in administering rates efficiently."

"These Travellers don't pay rates, nor do they pay a charge for using this site."

"I believe in equality and respect, however I see it as a two-sided coin."

"In this instance, I believe that the same rights should be entitled to Travellers as the holiday makers at Benone only if they exercise the same responsibility - both economically and morally."

"For me, that's equality."