Anger after withdrawal of Mid and East Antrim group leader meetings

The Alliance Party has criticised a decision by the DUP to withdraw from Mid and East Antrim’s Group Party Leader meetings.

Friday, 12th February 2021, 11:44 am

In a statement issued by Alliance, Group Party Leader on the council, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna said that the move “failed everyone in the area as the fight against Covid continues”.

She added: “This shocking move has no thought for the ratepayers who are depending on us to provide help and support during an extremely tough time. Everyday decisions will now be held up indefinitely, which is simply not good enough.

“If the DUP doesn’t want to help govern during the pandemic then fine, let them sulk in the corner while the rest of us get on with it.

Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna
Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna

“I find it extremely disappointing the chief executive has simply cancelled tomorrow’s planned meeting without further thought. Which is even more reason why the Alliance Party wants to see decision-making powers returned to the council chamber.

“The move has also blocked an initial mechanism for parties to seek clarity on the conflicting reports which have emerged in the wake of staff being removed and then returned to Larne Port last week. These questions aren’t going away and we will continue to ask them.

“From the start of the pandemic, we have worked together to provide help and support as needed across Mid and East Antrim, yet the DUP seems all too eager to play politics with people’s lives.”

The meetings have been taking place with the council’s chief executive Anne Donaghy during the Covid pandemic.

DUP Cllr Gregg McKeen

Alliance has been calling for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to rescind delegated powers that became effective during lockdown last March.

The issue was raised at a special meeting held by the local authority of Tuesday which was organised to discuss a backlog of motions that have accrued during Covid restrictions. An amendment was tabled that delegated powers be rescinded and that authority restored to full council but it was ruled inadmissible by the Deputy Mayor.

Commenting after the meeting, Knockagh Alliance Alderman Noel Williams said that delegated powers were “necessary” last March but added that he believes the time is now right to “return full power to elected members attending full council meetings”.

Ald Williams stated: “There is no longer a reason to leave delegated authority with the chief executive and group party leaders.

Sinn Fein Cllr James McKeown

“We will be writing to the CEO with the intention of getting this on the agenda of the March council meeting, a full year after powers were delegated.  It is long past the time for the decision making process to return to normal.”

Commenting on the DUP decision, Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown added: “The move by the council chief executive to stand down the party leaders’ forum on the back of the decision by the DUP to pull out of it is deeply concerning.

“This should not be a decision for the chief executive but the elected members themselves and the meetings should go ahead regardless of whether the DUP choose to participate or not. ”

Defending the DUP’s decision, group party leader on council Councillor Gregg McKeen said that no decisions were taken at the group party leaders’ meetings.

He blamed leaking of information from these meetings as the reason for the DUP departure adding that he would be prepared to return if “trust could be built back up again” and “everyone can abide by the guidelines”.

A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “A meeting of group party leaders will take place next week.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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