Showroom down at Lisburn
All eyes on new City Council’s AGM today

A representative from the Irish government will be in attendance at Lisburn Council today to monitor what is expected to be a highly controversial AGM.

During Tuesday night’s monthly Council meeting angry unionists passed a motion branding the criticism from Fermanagh Council as “unwarranted and unwelcome”. Fermanagh Council passed a motion last month saying that it was “disappointed at the decision by Lisburn Council to exclude nationalists and non-unionists from the positions of chairs, vice-chairs of council committees and membership of outside bodies”.

This followed last year’s AGM when unionists divided the positions of Mayor, deputy Mayor as well as the chairs and vice-chairs between them. In recent months the controversial decision has been raised in both the Dail and Westminister.

The SDLP have intimated that in the unlikely situation that they are offered any committee chairs today, they would not accept them until the D’Hondt system is fully established, with the main posts in the council going to parties in relation to proportionality. And yesterday Sinn Féin revealed that they will be sending their own high-powered team of observers to this afternoon’s meeting consisting of former Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey, current chair of Omagh District Council Seán Clarke and former Mayor of Armagh Council Pat O’Rawe.

Following Tuesday’s stormy council meeting Sinn Féin leader on Lisburn Paul Butler said he expects unionists to once more “carve up” the top positions between themselves.

“We welcomed the motion by Fermanagh District Council,” he said. “Lisburn is living in the Dark Ages and is going against the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. However, our campaign to expose Lisburn will not stop. Now that we have two MEPs we will now be raising the matter of Lisburn Council in Europe.”

With Sinn Féin holding four seats, the SDLP three and Alliance three – out of 30 seats on the Council – the opposition parties on Lisburn are claiming that unionist policies have effectively disenfranchised a third of the electorate – 17,000 voters. And speaking about today’s meeting Lisburn SDLP Councillor Peter O’Hagan said he didn’t expect the AGM would be “any worse or any better” than last year.

“But what I would urge is that in the next year that we address the problem full-on and plan for proportionality, so that next year’s local government elections take place in a neutral atmosphere.

“What happened in Lisburn last year has been noted in this land and further afield.”

Journalist:: Anthony Neeson

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