Northern Ireland

Unionists cautious of council’s proposed human rights procurement policy

Policy was introduced by Sinn Féin to exclude tenders to companies ‘involved in human rights and international law violations’

Newry NMDDC HQ Monaghan Row. Permission for all LDRS to publish.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is considering a new ethical procurement policy.

Unionists have raised concerns over Newry, Mourne and Down District Council adopting a new ethical procurement policy.

The local authority’s strategy, policy and resources committee has agreed to consider adopting a new policy to prevent it from doing business with companies profiting from the violation of human rights.

The committee highlighted the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine whilst also alluding to different “ethical outlooks” of political parties in the chamber.

Downpatrick Sinn Féin rep, Oonagh Hanlon, in bringing forward the motion said: “NMDDC deplores those corporations that profit from protracted armed conflict and systemic violations of human rights, particularly in the context of Israel’s continuing brutal assault on the people of Gaza and escalating terrorism in the West Bank, Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine and other conflicts around the world.”

She added: “By adopting an ethical procurement policy the council will be able to implement a process to exclude businesses and companies involved in human rights and international law violations when tendering bids. Companies deemed in breach of guiding principles on human rights should be excluded from the tendering process as a policy objection.”

Slieve Gullion UUP councillor, David Taylor, said that he could not give his support to the motion at this stage as it was a “complex issue”, which needed “more work”.

A similar approach was raised by DUP councillor Alan Lewis, who requested clarity that any review “would be brought back for scrutiny”.

Slieve Croob Alliance rep, Andrew McMurray, added: “I would like to know who arbitrates in this, is it Human Rights Watch, is it UN standard who says people from certain countries are in violation of human rights?

“Because, with the greatest will in the world I am going to have a different ethical outlook than my Sinn Féin colleagues, who might have a different outlook than my DUP or UUP colleagues. Though, we are happy to support the motion.

“So, I am just curious as to how all this goes forward.”

A council officer told the chamber that the review would take place in the early autumn with a report being brought back to the committee for debate.