Northern Ireland news

Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson defiant after suspension for linking football club to senior republican

Alderman Ruth Patterson has been suspended from Belfast City Council for six months. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Mairead Holland

BELFAST councillor Ruth Patterson has been given a six-month suspension after she was found to have breached the local government code of conduct.

The former DUP representative was sanctioned in connection with a speech linking a north Belfast football club to a senior republican.

However, the suspension will only last for two months in practice as Alderman Patterson is not standing for re-election at local government elections in May.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards, Marie Anderson, said she was responsible for a "deliberate, premeditated and serious act" which had brought Belfast City Council into disrepute and had led Crumlin Star FC to review its security measures.

The case related to a speech, written by loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, which Ms Patterson made during a council debate about the football club in July 2017.

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The Ardoyne-based club had wanted to use playing fields in south Belfast but the councillor said she was against the move and claimed the club had a member who is a senior republican.

The commissioner delivered her ruling last week but had delayed the sanctions announcement until yesterday to allow the councillor to make written representations.

Alderman Patterson had wanted Mr Bryson to represent her but the commissioner ruled against this.

The commissioner concluded that in making the comments the councillor had not shown respect and consideration for others, and had not acted fairly, objectively or in the public interest.

She noted a number of mitigating factors in her favour, including her long service on Belfast City Council with no previous history of misconduct and her co-operation with the investigation.

Jamie Bryson wrote the speech for Alderman Ruth Patterson. Pic:Pacemaker

Patrick McGlinchey, secretary of Crumlin Star FC, welcomed the outcome and said they felt vindicated.

"It has been a bit of a horrible experience for the football team," he said. "Ruth Patterson has never made any attempt to apologise and she was given a chance to state her case today but she didn't turn up.

"It was purely a football matter that we were engaged in and she attempted to take it down a path nobody wanted.

"The commissioner's findings are very meticulous and extremely fair."

SLDP councillor Tim Attwood, who lodged the complaint, called on Mrs Patterson to apologise.

"It is clear councillor Patterson had an opportunity to apologise during the investigation but decided to resile from her admissions. As a result, the Local Government Commissioner had to prove the case against her at significant expense to the public.”

In a statement last night, Ms Patterson indicated she could challenge the decision.

“I began my service to my country in the Ulster Defence Regiment, I dedicated much of my adult life in public service as a political representative and I leave my post as alderman on a high having stood up for free speech, for the right of the unionist community to challenge the nationalist narrative and most of all for the right of elected representatives to speak for their constituents on matters which are of public interest," she said.

“I will be making no further comment at this time pending a decision on potential High Court legal action.”

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