DUP councillor takes issue with ‘North of Ireland’ in motion aimed at tackling autism assessment waiting times

Alderman urged wording to be changed to be ‘geographically and politically accurate’

More than 5,600 children in Northern Ireland are on waiting lists for autism assessments by specialist health professionals with some facing delays of two years
A council motion is urging Stormont departments to collaborate in reducing waiting times for autism assessments.

A DUP councillor has called for a motion urging Stormont to tackle waiting times for autism assessments to be amended as the wording refers to the “North of Ireland”.

Councils across the north are being urged to back a call for Stormont’s health, education and finance departments to deal with “unacceptable” waiting times for families worried their child is on the autism spectrum.

It calls on all councils to “acknowledge the unacceptable waiting times for autism assessments in the North of Ireland, causing significant hardship and developmental delays”.

The motion, which seeks collaborations from all 11 local authorities, is being led by Derry City and Strabane District Council.

It urges the development of an action plan to reduce assessment waiting times.

However, an issue over the wording of the motion was raised when it came before Ards and North Down Borough Council at a recent meeting, where support was proposed by SDLP councillor Joe Boyle.

DUP Alderman Stephen McIlveen called for the motion to have its wording changed in order to be “geographically and politically correct”.

DUP Alderman Stephen McIlveen.
DUP Alderman Stephen McIlveen.

Alderman McIlveen said assessment waiting times was a “key issue that needs to be addressed” by the Executive, but added: “I would suggest a couple of amendments if I could in relation to this. If we are accepting what is before us as a proposal, I would rather have Northern Ireland than North of Ireland – that is geographically and politically accurate.”

“Secondly, we also write back to that council to say we have accepted what they have passed, that we have taken the requisite action, just as a matter of courtesy.”

The amendments were seconded by DUP Alderman Alan Graham.

Councillor Boyle said he would accept the amendments.

“I am quite happy and comfortable in my skin – Northern Ireland, North of Ireland, I can live with both,” he said.

“The main thing for me is that there is full party support within this chamber.”