Northern Ireland news

DUP's Luke Poots still faces council probe despite not seeking re-election

DUP councillor Luke Poots with his father, DUP MLA Edwin Poots at the election count in 2014. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Brendan Hughes

THE DUP's Luke Poots will continue to face a council watchdog probe despite not standing for re-election.

The Lisburn and Castlereagh councillor, whose father is DUP MLA Edwin Poots, announced earlier this week he will not be a candidate in May's council poll.

Mr Poots said he has "struggled" with the decision but "opportunities have arisen for me outside politics".

The 29-year-old Downshire representative is under investigation by the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards.

It follows a complaint to the watchdog last year over an alleged conflict of interest for voting in favour of planning decisions lobbied for by his father.

Mr Poots insisted at the time that he has "done everything by the book", but announced he would no longer take part in committee decisions when his father makes a representation.

Last summer Mr Poots also faced questions over why a planning application to build three houses to replace his home was made in his mother's maiden name.

Asked yesterday whether not standing for re-election would affect the investigation, a standards commissioner spokesman said: "Investigations continue to go ahead as normal even if councillors state they won't be seeking re-election."

However, some sanctions may not be able to be imposed should Mr Poots be found in breach of the code of conduct for councillors.

It is believed a disqualification would apply to any future period as a council representative, but a suspension only applies to the current mandate.

Mr Poots has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, the DUP has remained silent on whether councillor Louise Templeton has been reselected to contest May's election.

The married councillor last year issued an apology for an affair with DUP Upper Bann MP David Simpson.

Mr Simpson moved out of the home he shared with his wife and resigned from the Orange Order when details of the relationship emerged last year.

After the affair became public, Ms Templeton sent a letter to party colleagues on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council offering "sincerest apologies for the inappropriate actions I was involved in".

Ms Templeton and the DUP did not respond yesterday when asked whether she would be a party candidate in the forthcoming election.

In a further development, a DUP councillor who broke ranks to support the LGBT community has said he will never be "a nodding dog" for the party after he was deselected as an election candidate.

Tom Smith was one of two DUP councillors who last year voted in favour of illuminating Ards Town Hall in rainbow colours to mark LGBT Awareness Week.

Mr Smith said his deselection was "personally disappointing" but not surprising.

He said the DUP was asking him to "sit on council and just be a nodding dog for them, someone ready to put their hand up for a vote whenever it is required".

"If that is the price they are asking to become one of their candidates then it is a price I am not willing to pay," he said.

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