Northern Ireland news

DUP's Linda Clarke involved in awarding council contract to convicted sectarian pipe-bomber

John Smyth jnr, and right, DUP councillor Linda Clarke
Brendan Hughes

EMBATTLED DUP councillor Linda Clarke was involved in awarding a council contract to a convicted sectarian pipe-bomber whose father serves as mayor.

John Smyth jnr has been awarded by Antrim and Newtownabbey council the catering contract for Yew Tree Cafe Bistro at Allen Park golf club.

The former DUP council candidate received an eight-year sentence in 2013 for his part in a "naked sectarian" pipe-bomb attack on his Catholic Polish neighbours.

His father John Smyth snr is the council's mayor and, like Mrs Clarke, works part-time in her DUP MLA husband Trevor Clarke's constituency office.

It emerges as Mrs Clarke faces two watchdog investigations into alleged conflicts of interest in her council role.

John Smyth jnr in 2011 with DUP MLA Trevor Clarke and then party leader Peter Robinson inspecting pipe bomb damage caused to his home in Antrim

She and her husband have also come under pressure over running a sideline planning consultancy business.

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

Smyth jnr (38) was awarded the catering franchise in April at a meeting of the council's operations committee, the Sunday Life reported.

His father sits on the committee but removed himself from the debate after declaring an interest.

However Mrs Clarke, who also sits on the committee, seconded a motion proposed by the UUP's Jim Montgomery to note the report to award the catering contract.

When asked about the contract and Mrs Clarke's involvement in the decision, the DUP did not respond to Irish News requests for a comment.

Deputy mayor Anne Marie Logue, who also sits on the committee, said she had no idea of Smyth jnr's background.

John Smyth jnr

The Sinn Féin councillor said she was "really worried" about the agreement and would be raising it with relevant officials.

A council spokeswoman said: "The franchisee was appointed in line with the council's procurement procedures."

Smyth jnr was sentenced to three years in prison and five on licence for his involvement in the pipe bomb incident, which happened in October 2011.

The device was left at the home of a young Polish couple. It did not go off and was later defused.

Smyth jnr admitted his part in making the pipe bomb, but denied planting it.

The judge described the motivation for the attack as "naked sectarianism".

John Smyth jnr in 2011 with DUP MLA Trevor Clarke and then party leader Peter Robinson inspecting pipe bomb damage caused to his home in Antrim

Suspicions were raised about Smyth jnr in March 2011 when, just weeks before he stood for the DUP in the council elections, he claimed to be the victim of a mysterious pipe-bombing after a device exploded in his bedroom.

He spoke on television and posed for photos during a visit from then DUP leader Peter Robinson, who condemned what had thought was an "outrageous attack".

However, it is believed Smyth Jnr caused the explosion himself while building a pipe-bomb to hurl at his Polish neighbours.

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