Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin: DUP must say publicly whether it has confidence in MLA Trevor Clarke

DUP MLA Trevor Clarke with his wife Linda Clarke

THE DUP must say publicly whether it has confidence in South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke, Sinn Féin has said, after it emerged he is the subject of a planning enforcement investigation over a triple garage built at his home.

The Irish News yesterday revealed details of the garage, which was built without planning permission beside his home in Randalstown, Co Antrim.

Mid and East Antrim council is also examining a printing business which is run by his son from the address without planning approval.

A spokesperson for Mr Clarke last night said he believes the garage meets conditions which mean planning permission is not required, while the DUP criticised Sinn Féin and said it would await the outcome of standards investigations in relation to the MLA.

Mr Clarke and his wife Linda have come under weeks of pressure after an Irish News investigation exposed his business lobbying for planning applicants.

The garage, which has three separate doors and a pitched roof, was built beside the Clarkes' home in recent years.

The Clarkes also run a car sales business from the address.

Mid and East Antrim council said an earlier investigation found the use of the land for car sales "was immune from enforcement in accordance with the time limits set out in legislation".

However, it said an enforcement investigation was later opened in August 2018 after the garage was discovered during a fresh planning complaint about the car sales business.

Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney said the DUP cannot continue to ignore concerns raised against Mr Clarke.

"The DUP has already been rocked by one paid advocacy scandal concerning Ian Paisley’s links to foreign governments, but the DUP leadership appears to be ignoring these mounting allegations surrounding Trevor Clarke," he said.

"The highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity must be observed by individuals holding public office. I expect these standards to apply in South Antrim.

"The DUP party leadership also has serious questions to answer over exactly what standard of behaviour it expects from its public representatives.

"It should now state publicly whether it has confidence in its South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke MLA and its Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor Linda Clarke."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mr Clarke said: "Planning permission is not required for a detached domestic garage if it meets certain conditions.

"Mr Clarke’s view is that the garage on his property meets these, despite a complaint submitted by a political rival."

A DUP spokesperson also said: "As chairman of Sinn Féin, Declan Kearney should deal with the accusations of kangaroo courts and bullying inside Sinn Féin, figure out where a man who lives in a caravan found £2.5m to donate to Sinn Féin and encourage his colleagues to stop rubbing salt in the wounds of PIRA victims.

"The matter has been reported to the relevant standards commissioners and we will await the outcome of those investigations."

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