Northern Ireland news

Standards Commissioner rules Ruth Patterson brought Belfast City Council into 'disrepute'

Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson was found to be in breach of a number of aspects of the code of conduct for elected representatives.

A hearing to decide what sanctions are to be placed on an independent unionist found to have brought herself and Belfast City Council into disrepute has been delayed to allow the south Belfast councillor to make representations.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards (NILGCS) found that Ruth Patterson breached the Local Government Code of Conduct following comments she made at a meeting of Belfast City Council on July 3, 2017.

Crumlin Star FC, which does not have a home ground, wanted to use playing fields at Strangford Avenue in south Belfast.

During a debate 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.

A complaint about Mrs Patterson's conduct was made by SDLP councillor Tim Attwood.

At an adjudication hearing held earlier this week the commissioner found that "during the meeting Alderman Patterson acted in breach of the code in linking the players and members of Crumlin Star Football Club to, in the Alderman's words, ‘a man named in Parliament as a senior member of the Provisional IRA.'

"The commissioner considered this to be a deliberate act which caused offence to the players and members of the club".

"After examining the evidence the commissioner decided that Alderman Patterson's conduct at the meeting brought her position as a councillor, and the council into disrepute.

" She also concluded that in making the comments she had not shown respect and consideration for others, and had not acted fairly, objectively or in the public interest".

The commissioner ruled that in light of the evidence Mrs Patterson had breached a number of aspects of the code for councillors.

The spokesperson said: "The Deputy Commissioner argued that he believed in this case a suspension would be an appropriate sanction.

"However, before deciding on the level of sanction to apply, in the interests of fairness the commissioner determined that Alderman Patterson should be offered a further opportunity to make representations to her on this issue".

Both the Crumlin Star FC and Councillor Attwood welcomed the ruling.

Despite the statement from the commissioner Mrs Patterson, who declined to attend the hearing, said she had not been found in breach of the code, claiming that no final decision had been made.

She added: "I will not personally be making any further comment until the proceedings have concluded".

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, who was banned from representing Mrs Patterson due to an alleged conflict of interest, said: "This arises from an initial allegation that I authored the impugned speech contained within a witness statement from the senior republican whose name was withheld by the commissioner, in circumstances in which I feel she had no lawful power to do so."

He that a "democratically elected representative has been sanctioned on this basis".

The hearing to decide what sanctions will be placed upon Mrs Patterson will take place on Monday, March 4.

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