Cllr Rice was speaking after the council’s AGM on Monday, which saw Cllr Michael Henderson of the UUP, elected to the position of Mayor and Cllr Tommy Sandford of the DUP, the Deputy Mayor. In the last 21 years Alliance has only taken the deputy mayor position twice, despite currently being the second-biggest party on the council. Alliance now have been Mayor once in 35 years.
Cllr Rice said the move was “disgraceful” and amounted to nothing more than a “carve-up” among unionist councillors.
Cllr Geraldine Rice said: “We added two more councillors during last year’s local elections, bringing our total to six overall. Despite this fact, we have once again been denied the top position we are democratically entitled to. It should be no real surprise, given the DUP leader Peter Robinson likes to talk about a shared future but over the past 30 years in Castlereagh Council, he and his party have shown that to be just talk by them. And, despite what Mike Nesbit may say in Stormont, his party is doing these dirty deals in Councils under the name of unionist unity.
“We were hopeful things were changing in Castlereagh and other parties were moving on from the sectarian politics of the past but this is a clear sign that is not the case on this council. Only last week Ballymena appointed its first nationalist mayor and we had hoped Castlereagh would show the same maturity.
“Sadly, this is nothing less than a policy of exclusion promoted by other parties on the council. We have continuously refused to be bullied by the DUP and this is simply an example of them attempting to gain revenge by refusing to allow us the top positions we deserve.
“The voters who elected us have been disenfranchised by this. The rest of Northern Ireland has moved on and people don’t want to see this type of negative, tribal politics carried out by the DUP or anyone else.”