At the latest full meeting of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Councillor Kellie Armstrong – Chair of the Community and Well Being Committee – asked that comments made by Independent and TUV Councillors, be included in the official minute.
Putting the issue of openness and transparency firmly back on the agenda, concern was raised over comments relating to the burning of Tricolours, the Tricolour being a ‘foreign flag’ references to an ‘IRA rag’.
“Openness, transparency, tolerance and respect must be at the heart of local government,” Councillor Kellie Armstrong said.
“Firstly, these offensive comments should never have been made in the first place, but secondly, it is unacceptable that Committee meetings occur with members able to voice such remarks without full public scrutiny via audio recording.
“A summary minute is only produced for Committee meetings whereas full Council meetings are held with full audio recording, thanks to Alliance amendment secured at the Assembly when new Local Government legislation was drafted in 2014.
“I’m also extremely concerned for the note takers who at times write for up to two hours without a break. An oral record would not only remove the risk of mistakes, but would also give the public full access to issues affecting them and allow members of the public to hear the debate whilst sitting in the public gallery.
“The offending comments in question were made during a discussion about the recent Cultural Expressions’ Grants Scheme for Bonfires and it is a sad indictment of how some Councillors still see the burning of flags as ‘normal’.
“On behalf of Alliance I will continue to work towards an inclusive community where everyone’s culture is respected and I’ll be working with officers and all Councillors with an aim of improving Good Relations across our borough.
“Councillors must be bound by a code of conduct and held to account by the public for what they say and how they act. Alliance will again be pushing for the audio recording of all committee meetings and there is no reason why others shouldn’t support us – what have they got to hide?”