At the meeting legal advice was provided from both bodies through a Communique revealing that the legislation says ‘the office is held in turn by each of the four largest parties represented on the Council’ and that legal advice says that ‘in turn’ means that ‘the chair is held by the largest party, then by the second largest- and so on.’
At the last election the DUP had 11 Councillors, Alliance 6, the UUP 3 and the SDLP 2 and so, with the DUP having held the position for the first year, the legal advice states that Alliance should have been elected this year; however, on a recorded vote the UUP’s Cecil Hall was elected and the Council decided to take its own legal advice.
Councillor Michael Long said: “It is deeply regrettable that the Unionists on the Council have failed to follow the clear legal advice provided to them and as a result the Alliance group has referred the matter to the Justice Minister and the Policing Board for action.
“This is a serious matter and we will use all means at our disposal to challenge this flawed process. We are also disappointed that ratepayers’ money is going to be wasted on seeking further legal advice, when the simple appointment of an Alliance Chair would have settled the matter.
“One would have hoped that this kind of sectarian carve up had had its day but it is now clear that the Unionists in Castlereagh have no interest in a shared future unless they are forced into supporting it. With the upcoming changes in RPA it is vital that robust measures are in place to stop this subversion of the democratic process and we hope that this tribal decision is overturned as soon as possible.”