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‘Conflict of interest’ allegation rubbished by Edwin Poots

By Noel McAdam

Stormont Environment Minister Edwin Poots has rejected charges of a “clear conflict of interest” over key decisions on the shrinking of Northern Ireland’s 26 local councils to 11.

His demand that Dunmurry should be part of a new Lisburn/ Castlereagh authority, rather than Belfast, is a main factor holding up a final go-ahead for the reform.

And with the clock running out to allow the passage of legislation in time for new elections, Mr Poots — a Lisburn councillor — has again insisted he will not stand down from the council.

UUP MLA Roy Beggs said the minister’s position would “not be accepted in any other part of the United Kingdom”.

He asked MLAs: “How can the minister be the final arbiter in finalising a boundary while representing a council in that area, without having some personal input? There is a clear conflict of interest ... that would not be accepted in any other part of the United Kingdom, and it is time that it was addressed.”

Sinn Fein MLA Cathal Boylan said Mr Poots was “letting personal issues cloud his thinking.”

Mr Poots’s department was asked for a response yesterday and the reply from the DUP said: “The minister’s position remains unchanged that until legislation is in place, facilitating co-option without the possibility of an election, he will not be considering his position on the council.

“To avoid any perceived conflict of interest theminister has withdrawn from all Lisburn City Council debates on local government since his appointment as Environment Minister.”

A DUP spokesman also added that the Executive, rather than the minister is the “final arbiter”.

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