Castlereagh Borough Council is “bigoted”, “backward” and “sectarian”, according to one of its own councillors.
The Alliance Party’s Patrick Mitchell made the claim after the appointments of the council’s six committee chairpersons were announced at a special meeting last Thursday.
Mr. Mitchell is furious that, unlike previous years at the council, there is no “proper” power sharing after the Democratic Unionist Party secured four and the Ulster Unionist Party two of the six committee posts.
The Castlereagh councillor, who wants to see “fair treatment” for minority parties, explained how the Alliance Party had always received one of the chairperson posts.
Mr. Mitchell is now calling on what, he says is, the “Unionist family” on Castlereagh council to allocate one of the six positions to another councillor from one of the smaller parties.
“For several years, in a system of power sharing, the Alliance Party has always held one of the chairperson positions on the council’s committees,” explained the Alliance man.
“But we must realise that there was a new factor in the equation. Due to recent pay rises for councillors, £7,500 is to be divided among the six chairpersons. It is clear that the DUP and U UUP members were determined to get their hands on this money.
“When challenged, the DUP members made spurious remarks about the supposedly poor attendance of a former Alliance chairperson. How are we meant to move forward when we have Mereve Chambers attending meetings in her Orange regalia?
“Iris Robinson alleged that our chairperson attended just half of the required meetings. However, this was completely incorrect. For everyone in the council knows that our chairperson attended a perfectly satisfactory six out of ten meetings.
“We have been excluded from the positions of mayor, deputy mayor and on numerous advisory committees. DUP members like to refer to Castlereagh as the premier borough. In reality, it is more like a backward and bigoted borough,” said Councillor Mitchell.