Audit, Inspection and Safety

05.03.19

Belfast councillor given six-month suspension after breaching code of conduct over IRA allegation

A councillor has been suspended from Belfast City Council for six months after she was found to have breached the local government code of conduct.

Alderman Ruth Patterson has been sanctioned by the Northern Ireland Local Government Ombudsman (NILGCS) after she made allegations regarding a north Belfast football club and a “man named in parliament as a senior member of the Provisional IRA.”

The comments were made by the independent unionist during a Belfast City Council meeting in July 2017, and last week a hearing found that Patterson had breached the local government code of conduct.

The local government commissioner for standards, Marie Anderson, found that Patterson had breached three aspects of the code, determining that her remarks were a “deliberate act which caused offence to the players and members” of the football club.

“After examining the evidence, the commissioner decided that Alderman Patterson's conduct at the meeting brought her position as a councillor, and the council into disrepute,” the statement added.

At an adjudication hearing held yesterday the NILGCS imposed a six-month suspension on Patterson.

The commissioner noted a number of mitigating factors in the case, including Patterson’s long service for the city council with no previous history of misconduct and that she co-operated with the investigation into the complaint.

But, the commissioner stated, there were several aggravating factors as the councillor’s actions were “deliberate and pre-meditated” and despite being warned by the Lord Mayor to choose her words carefully, she chose to continue.

The comments also led to the football club, Crumlin Star FC, having to review its security measures.

The hearing heard that the actions were “an intentional failure to comply with the code” and in order to uphold public confidence in local democracy, and to discourage similar conduct from councillors a six-month suspension, was appropriate.

The suspension will begin on the 11 March and will continue until the end of Patterson’s term of office.

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