Northern Ireland news

Severance payment may dash ex-MLA's hopes of council return

Former Alliance Party MLA Kieran McCarthy

A FORMER MLA is seeking a return to politics in the forthcoming council elections – but an award of a severance payment may rule him out.

Kieran McCarthy was an Alliance councillor on the defunct Ards Borough Council for 28 years, and an assembly member for Strangford from 1998 until 2016.

The 76-year-old said he was considering standing for election to Ards and North Down council in May.

He would run as an independent candidate after allowing his Alliance Party membership to lapse.

Mr McCarthy is seeking clarification, however, on whether he will be allowed to stand at all.

In the run-up to local government reorganisation, a severance scheme was introduced for councillors planning to leave political life.

The number of councils was slashed from 26 to 11 and representatives from 582 to 462.

Long-serving councillors with more than 12 years cumulative service, and who chose not to seek election to the new bodies, were offered money.

The amount paid was calculated on a fixed amount per year with a cap on total severance payment to any individual of £35,000.

Mr McCarthy said he accepted such an award upon his retirement as a councillor in 2013.

Advice supplied at the time made it clear that recipients of payments were never again to stand for election as councillors.

It is understood anyone who served as a councillor up to 2014 and took the severance payment, would be prohibited from standing again.

Mr McCarthy said he wanted to tackle environmental issues.

"Whenever I left the assembly I never gave it another thought," he said.

"I do a lot of cycling and I thought there were environmental issues that are not being tackled, there was an opportunity to have a voice, so I thought I'd go for it.

"My Alliance subscription had lapsed and I wasn't involved in any meetings so didn't know what was going on. The party had already selected their candidate for the council election, so I thought I would run on my own."

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