Team Larne has been ‘blown out of the water’

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Unionist councillors have been accused of undermining the spirit of cross-party co-operation on Larne Borough Council.

The claim comes after members were asked to nominate five representatives to sit on the new statutory transition committee (STC), which will play a major role in the upcoming reshuffle of local government in Northern Ireland.

As part of the move to reduce the number of councils from 26 to 11, Larne is to merge with Carrickfergus and Ballymena to form the new Mid and East Antrim super-council.

And the local STC will be responsible for talking key decisions, including the appointment a new chief executive.

At the latest monthly meeting of Larne Council, Independent member Brian Dunn proposed that the representatives from the STC’s precursor, the voluntary transition committee (VTC), be transferred over to the new body.

The VTC members were SDLP Cllr Martin Wilson, Independent Cllr Roy Craig, DUP Ald Winston Fulton, Alliance Cllr Gerardine Mulvenna and UUP Cllr Mark McKinty.

However, DUP member Gregg McKeen made a counter-proposal that the D’Hondt method should be used to determine the make-up of the STC, which would mean it would be dominated by unionists (two DUP, two UUP and one Alliance).

When it came to a vote, members were split down the middle on both proposals (seven for, seven against, with Ald Fulton not present at the meeting).

In the end , Cllr McKeen’s proposal was carried after UUP chairwoman Maureen Morrow used her casting vote.

Speaking to the Times after the meeting, SDLP Cllr Wilson said he was “disappointed but not shocked” at the outcome.

He added: “The unionists have blown the council’s Team Larne approach out of the water.

“This makes me fear for the future. It had been agreed that I would be Mayor next year, but I now have to wonder if that will happen, as it is clear that any agreement we may have had in the past can be changed at any time at the whim of the unionist family.”

Sinn Fein Cllr James McKowen said: “Perhaps the Mayor should have thought about the bigger picture when using her casting vote, rather than simply siding with her party colleagues.”