Northern Ireland news

DUP's Linda Clarke urged to resign over council cash awarded to son's business

DUP councillor Linda Clarke, right, with party leader Arlene Foster, and inset, how The Irish News revealed the controversy
Brendan Hughes

THE DUP's Linda Clarke has been urged to resign over her involvement in awarding thousands of pounds in council cash to her son's business.

The councillor was involved in giving more than £4,500 in council contracts to a printing firm run by her son from the family home, The Irish News yesterday revealed.

AC Print was allocated the funding over several years since 2016 to create virtual graphics for vacant shop fronts and buildings in Randalstown.

The payments also included more than £250 to print Christmas flyers.

Mrs Clarke lists AC Print among her 'financial and other personal interests' registered with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

But the councillor did not declare an interest or absent herself from meetings when the funding was awarded.

In some cases, she was the only councillor present at meetings when payments were agreed.

Under the code of conduct, councillors must withdraw from discussions where they have a "pecuniary interest, direct or indirect".

Mrs Clarke is already the subject of a complaint to the standards commissioner over alleged conflicts of interest in the planning process.

A DUP spokesman for Mrs Clarke said she has referred the issue of alleged conflicts of interest to the commissioner and "she is happy for that office to carry out its work".

Alliance councillor Tom Campbell said he was "appalled" by the circumstances in which public money was awarded to a business connected to Mrs Clarke.

"I think anyone faced with these sorts of allegations, without a proper explanation, should resign," he said.

"I am also concerned that her register of interests confirms she has an interest in this business and she failed to declare that. I think that is unacceptable."

Sinn Féin councillor Michael Goodman said standing down is "certainly something she should consider" if she is "not prepared fully (to) explain" in the absence of an investigation.

"It is concerning that this information is coming forward. There needs to be a thorough investigation over all these issues," he said.

SDLP councillor Roisin Lynch stressed the importance of councillors abiding by the councillors' code of conduct.

"You need to be totally understanding of our code of conduct and how that should affect decisions," she said.

The printing jobs were awarded by the Randalstown Town Team, a council sub-group made up of councillors, council officials and business community representatives.

In a Freedom of Information response, the council said projects are "agreed by the Town Team and then procured and implemented via council officers in line with relevant council policy".

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