Alliance Antrim Councillors Neil Kelly and Alan Lawther have expressed their strong concerns at the carve up of top positions between the DUP and UUP at the Antrim Borough Council AGM last Thursday.
At the meeting the DUP and UUP excluded all three non-unionist parties from the top two positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor for the second year in a row. Alliance and SDLP were also excluded from being appointed chair of any of the four committees.
Councillor Kelly was disappointed that, with a narrow 10 to 9 majority, the unionist parties decided all the major positions without considering those who voted ‘non-unionist’. Of the 6 top posts one went to Sinn Fein, a token nod to power sharing. The other 5 positions went to either DUP or UUP councillors.
Cllr Neil Kelly said: “It has been said recently that there have been 2 nationalist Mayors in the last 7 years. The fact of the matter is there were no non unionist mayors from 1973 to 2005, meaning the UUP and DUP have had the top position 37 times out of the last 39. It is nothing other than disgraceful that 10 unionists can ignore and snub the other 9 Councillors and, more importantly, those who voted for them.
“This harks back to the ‘never never never’ practices of nearly forty years ago and reflects poorly on Antrim as a Town and Borough. Although Antrim is a mixed Borough, this behaviour makes it seem like Antrim is a ‘Unionist Town for Unionist people'”.
Cllr Alan Lawther said: “These actions have highlighted how superficial the unionist efforts are towards fairness and equality. At the start of the AGM Alliance urged the chamber to adopt an inclusive approach by sharing out positions but again the unionists defeated this by 10 votes to 9.
“In the past, Unionists had to learn the hard way that if they would not act fairly and responsibly the law would ensure they did so. We would much prefer they showed their ability to do the right things voluntarily. Unionist Councillors frequently tell us they serve all of the people in Antrim, actions like this prove they do not.”
Alliance Party Leader, David Ford MLA also commented, “In the last Council term, Antrim seemed to have changed, with a few small steps on the road to genuine sharing. I was pleased to play a part in that, ensuring the nationalist parties received a year as mayor and a committee chair.
“Now it seems Antrim has become just another Castlereagh, with the Ulster Unionists loyally toeing the DUP line. Many will wonder whether there is any point in voting UUP if it just means you get DUP policy.”