Northern Ireland news

DUP councillor under investigation given honorary title by party

DUP councillor Linda Clarke with her husband, party MLA Trevor Clarke
Connla Young

A DUP councillor who is the subject of two separate watchdog investigations has been handed an honorary title by her party.

The decision to confer the title of ‘alderman’ on Linda Clarke was revealed at an Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council committee meeting this week.

Council positions and titles are allocated to each party grouping using the d’Hondt system.

The honour of alderman is traditionally given to elected representatives with long service or held in high esteem.

Mrs Clarke will also take up a new role as vice chair of the council’s Community Planning and Regeneration Committee after being nominated by the DUP.

Details emerged days after DUP councillor and alderman Thomas Hogg, a former mayor of the borough, resigned from the party and council after he was charged with child sex offences.

Council papers tabled at Monday’s Operations Committee meeting said that “following recent membership changes within the Democratic Unionist Party, the nominating officers has advised of the following changes to be effective from October 3 2019”.

The document reveals that the DUP have selected Paul Dunlop to take on the role of chair of the Policy and Governance Committee, a role previously held by Mr Hogg, and Linda Clarke to be alderman and vice chair of the Community Planning and Regeneration Committee.

Mrs Clarke is currently facing two separate probes by the Local Government Commissioner for Standards following revelations by The Irish News.

One complaint relates to alleged conflicts of interest in the planning process while a second investigation was launched last month after it was revealed she was involved in awarding more than £4,500 in council contracts to her son's printing firm.

Mrs Clarke had involvement in her MLA husband Trevor Clarke's planning business Versatile Consultancy, which has acted as the planning agent for several applications in the Antrim area in recent years.

It later emerged that she did not declare her links to the business to Antrim and Newtownabbey council.

The couple have insisted they "made all the relevant declarations and adhered to all rules".

SDLP councillor Thomas Burns criticised the DUP last night, saying: "They have no shame in promoting Linda Clarke to the position of vice chair and alderman when she has serious questions to answer."

Under current regulations Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough council is entitled to designate a maximum of 10 aldermen.

A spokeswoman confirmed the appointments of Mrs Clarke and Mr Dunlop “via the D’Hondt system”.

A spokesman for the DUP declined to comment.

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