Jolene Bunting being investigated by Commissioner for Standards

Independent unionist Jolene Bunting
Independent unionist Jolene Bunting

THE Commissioner for Standards has confirmed an investigation is underway into the conduct of embattled Belfast councillor Jolene Bunting.

Last week multiple City Hall sources said the Greater Shankill representative “will be disqualified” from standing in next year's council elections due to a string of controversial incidents in the past 12 months.

More than 100 formal and informal complaints have been filed with the Local Government Commissioner for Standards against the former TUV councillor.

The complaints relate to public far-right displays and "offensive and sectarian" social media posts.

The commissioner’s office has now confirmed an investigation into Ms Bunting’s conduct is underway.

"The Local Government Commissioner for Standards has received a number of complaints in relation to material posted on social media by a councillor from Belfast City council,” a spokesman said.

“The issue has now been referred for investigation.”

It is understood that once the probe is complete any adjudication proceedings would take place before the end of the year. 

One City Hall source said Ms Bunting's position "has just become more and more untenable in recent months, what with these rallies every other week and the Britain First links,” they added.

“It has to be done and it’s the right decision. It’s one everyone hates to see happen, but that’s what rules are for - there is an expected level of behaving in City Hall.”

Another source said even council officials have complained about Jolene Bunting on several occasions in the last council year.

Ms Bunting is has been widely criticised by other politicians and community groups, as well as Belfast Islamic Centre, since the beginning of the year due to her public support and links to far-right organisations, including Britain First and Generation Identity.

GI, a European-wide anti-immigration movement, has been present at two 'UK Freedom Rallies' outside Belfast City Hall in the past four weeks, with another scheduled for July 14.

Councillor Bunting has helped organise all such rallies to date in Belfast, which have seen crowds of hundreds of counter-demonstrators, citizens and far-right protesters descend upon City Hall.

When contacted this week, Jolene Bunting said she “is not, or have I ever been, a member of Generation Identity”.

Ms Bunting is a former TUV councillor who resigned from the party in February 2017. Last December Facebook banned her from the site for 30 days after posting messages in support of a member of a far-right group.

Belfast councillor Jolene Bunting (right) with Paul Golding, the leader of Britain First, and deputy leader Jayda Fransen. File picture from Twitter
Belfast councillor Jolene Bunting (right) with Paul Golding, the leader of Britain First, and deputy leader Jayda Fransen. File picture from Twitter