Northern Ireland news

Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson to be sanctioned for linking football club to senior republican

 Ruth Patterson with other DUP members in 2017. Picture by Bill Smyth

BELFAST councillor Ruth Patterson has been found to have breached the council code of conduct when she made a speech linking a football club to a senior republican.

Ms Patterson was cut short by then Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister while speaking during a Belfast City Council debate about Crumlin Star FC in July 2017.

The Ardoyne-based club, which does not have a home ground, wanted to use playing fields at Strangford Avenue in south Belfast.

The former DUP representative said she was against the move and claimed the club had a member who is a senior republican, causing other councillors to rise to their feet in protest.

Since then Crumlin Star has been given a temporary home at Cliftonville Playing Fields.

Ms Patterson quit the DUP in 2015 after she was snubbed by the party for an assembly seat.

Independent Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson caused outrage when she linked an amateur football club to a senior republican

The south Belfast councillor had thought she was in line to replace retired MLA Jimmy Spratt but the party opted for then special advisor Emma Pengelly, who has since been elected to Westminster.

Ms Patterson retained her council seat as an independent but is not expected to run for re-election in May.

She did not attend a hearing yesterday about her July 2017 comments.

The process had been delayed for a week after the Local Government Commissioner for Standards Marie Anderson ruled that loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson could not represent Ms Patterson, as he had been the author of the controversial speech.

A spokesman for Crumlin Star FC said it "felt vindicated" by the ruling.

"As we said at the time we are a community club, providing a positive sporting outlet for young people from north Belfast.

"We steer clear of politics as it has no place in sport.

"Ms Patterson's comments placed at risk our players, supporters and the many volunteers who give up their free time to work with the club.

"This was the right decision and we would like to thank the many political representatives from across a range of parties who condemned her comments at the time and supported the club throughout this process."

The move followed a complaint by SDLP councillor Tim Attwood. “It is 20 months since Cllr Ruth Patterson chose to make reckless and dangerous remarks about allegations of links Crumlin Star FC had,” he said.

“It is most welcome that the commissioner satisfied herself that Cllr Patterson had brought herself and Council into disrepute.”

Mr Attwood said the commissioner’s ruling had “vindicated the club”.

The standards committee will meet today to decide what sanctions to impose on Ms Patterson.

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