Alliance and Independent Councillors challenged decision to exclude their grouping from important council bodies.
Councillors have hit out at a decision by Newry Mourne and Down District Council’s Council’s four largest parties, Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP and DUP to exclude their party and Independent councillors from key positions in the new Council term.
In the last Council term, five independent Councillors and Councillors from smaller parties opted to form a technical group which allowed them representation on certain key Council groupings. This term the technical group has been reformed by Alliance Councillors Patrick Brown and Gregory Bain, and Independent Councillors Cadogan Enright and Jarlath Tinnelly. All independent Councillors are welcome to join the group at any time.
Speaking about the move, Alliance/Independent Party Group leader Patrick Brown said: “In the last term, there was an agreement amongst all parties that if smaller parties (those with less than three members) and Independents agreed to work together to nominate a group leader, that leader would be recognised on the Party Representatives forum, a private, non-minuted forum in which important and often contentious issues are discussed before coming to a committee.
“This also included recognising a representative from the Alliance/Independent group on several key working groups and representative bodies within council.
“Essentially, the four largest parties agreed amongst themselves to exclude us from this forum and other important council bodies, including the appointment panel for the new Chief Executive, with no reason or excuse whatsoever. I always had my doubts about the party representatives’ forum as being an undemocratic back-channel and this latest move very much confirms that view.
“It seems the establishment parties are keen to exclude alternative and minority voices in this new council – no doubt in part due to the fantastic results smaller parties and independents received in the District at the last election.
“Alliance and independents now represent almost 20% of members of the new Council. By voting to exclude us from key positions this is not just a shocking example of silencing minority voices but a huge democratic deficit and an affront to all those who voted for Alliance and independent representatives in May’s council election.”
Downpatrick Independent Councilor Cadogan Enright agreed with Cllr Brown’s position and said: “Technical groups are recognised in Westminster, The Dáil, the EU Parliament, Stormont and in Councils the length and breadth of Ireland. There is no justification for this undemocratic behaviour led by the SDLP and Sinn Féin. They should hang their heads in shame.
“People fought for the right to vote and to select their elected representatives in this country and this behaviour disgraces the democratic tradition of Irish constitutional politics going back to Daniel O’Connell in the 1830’s and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. They are clearly afraid of what the rise of other voices mean for them”.