22/07/2003

Sinn Fein hit out at Lisburn council exclusion

Sinn Fein has hit out at the "blatant discrimination" within Lisburn City Council after members of the DUP and UUP took up all the council's top posts at a recent AGM meeting.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Mitchel McLaughlin claimed the "abuse of power" by unionists was sending out a clear 'Lisburn Council no Catholic need apply' message to nationalists in the area.

He added: "At Lisburn Council's AGM on the 26th June 2003 the UUP and the DUP excluded Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance parties from every senior position on the Council.

"This has meant that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Lisburn City, are both unionists. All of the Chairs and Vice Chairs of every Council Committee have also been taken up by the UUP and DUP. Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Parties have effectively been excluded from holding any senior positions on the Council."

Mr McLaughlin said "this abuse of power" by unionists would be opposed and that his party would be tabling a motion asking the council to adopt the D'hondt system, which allocates posts according to party strength.

"We are calling for the political isolation of Lisburn Council until it gives nationalists and others equal representation and full participation on the Council. Lisburn Council is not functioning as a normal democratic Council. We are seeking political support for our campaign to isolate Lisburn Council," Mr McLaughlin added.

Welcoming his remark's SDLP councillor, Eugene McMenamin said it was good to see Sinn Fein "addressing the issue of 'blatant and direct discrimination' in electing council positions.

However, Mr McMenamin said it would also be good for Sinn Fein to practice what they preach. He added: "In Strabane District Council in particular, it seems that Sinn Fein have had no issue with a disproportionate allocation of committee roles. Despite deciding to operate on a d'hondt basis in Strabane, as the largest party Sinn Fein has six committee positions, whilst the second biggest party, the SDLP, only has one."

The SDLP representative said he hoped that Sinn Fein would now act consistently in reinforcing this practice throughout all councils in Northern Ireland and not just those which are unionist dominated.

(MB)

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