SDLP's Declan Boyle urged to refer himself for investigation

Councillor Declan Boyle speaking at Belfast City Hall. Picture by Philip Walsh
Brendan Hughes

AN SDLP councillor in Belfast has been urged to refer himself for investigation after failing to declare an interest in connection to an £80,000 Holylands grant.

The Irish News revealed on Tuesday that Declan Boyle, who has dozens of Holylands rental properties, chaired a committee that approved funding for the area without declaring an interest.

The SDLP councillor is a landlord managing more than 30 houses in the student area that earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

He has previously defended not disclosing to the council details of the properties, telling The Irish News: "It's none of your business."

But it emerged that Mr Boyle did not declare an interest when a council committee he chairs approved £80,000 of funding for a Holylands improvement scheme.

Under the code of conduct, councillors must declare personal interests where they relate to a matter coming before any council meeting.

They must also repeat their declaration if the matter is raised again for discussion at a later meeting.

An SDLP spokesman had said Mr Boyle did declare an interest at an area working group prior to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee meeting.

However, the council has refused to release the working group minutes.

Alliance Belfast councillor Paula Bradshaw urged Mr Boyle to refer himself to the new public services ombudsman.

"I am calling on Councillor Boyle to refer himself to the ombudsman for investigation, something he should be able to do immediately," the South Belfast assembly candidate said.

"He also needs to consider his position as chair of the Strategic Policy and Resource Committee as we cannot afford for growing mistrust in him to derail council business."

Clare Bailey, deputy leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, urged Belfast City Council to investigate.

The South Belfast assembly candidate said: "The lack of transparency surrounding rental properties, conflicts of interest and grant payments by council committees in south Belfast is astounding.

"I am calling for Belfast City Council to conduct a full investigation into all councillors to ensure that their conflicts of interest are fully registered."

It comes after an Irish News investigation last week revealed hundreds of councillors failing to declare property and business interests.

Mr Boyle rents out dozens of properties in the Holylands and other parts of the city, but on his council declarations form he simply wrote, "Various properties in Belfast".

Defending his disclosures last week, he said: "It is my personal business, it's as simple as that. You will find that in any meetings if there is a conflict of interest I will declare that."

An SDLP spokeswoman said: "Councillor Boyle has advised us that his declaration of interest is in keeping with Belfast City Council requirements.

"Furthermore councillor Boyle has not been contacted by the council in regards to any matter."

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