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Calls for emergency Belfast council meeting in bid to stop suspension of Parliament branded 'embarrassing'

The issue was raised at Monday night's council meeting.
The issue was raised at Monday night's council meeting.
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

A move by SDLP councillors in Belfast to call an emergency meeting of the city council in a bid to legally challenge the suspension of Parliament has been branded an "utter waste of time and resources".

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Councillor Seamas de Faoite posted on social media that SDLP representatives submitted a motion to the Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane on Wednesday calling for an emergency meeting.

The aim of the meeting was to seek support for legal action against the Prime Minister and the government to challenge the suspension of Parliament and prevent a no-deal Brexit.

However, opposition councillors have hit out at the move.

DUP councillor George Dorrian tweeted: "An utter waste of time and resources, in desperation to grab a headline. It's becoming more and more embarrassing.

Fellow DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst added: "Laughable. Utter waste of Council time."

In response, Cllr de Faoite tweeted: "The Council is stocking up on liquified petroleum gas to keep our crematorium working if we lose access to gas in the fallout of a no-deal Brexit, but trying to stop no-deal from happening is “laughable”?...The DUP really are far out on this one."

In a statement on Thursday DUP councillor George Dorrian said: “People in Belfast will undoubtedly have different views on Brexit, and on the Government’s decision to open a new session of Parliament with a Queen’s Speech in October. However, what will unite the vast majority of people is an objection to an expensive vanity exercise funded courtesy of ratepayers.

"When the decision to establish a Brexit Committee in the City Council was first put forward many of us highlighted that its only purpose would be to provide a platform for grandstanding Councillors rather than deliver anything of use to the public we are meant to serve. With that point now clearly proven it seems that some Councillors aren’t just content with grandstanding in the Council chamber but want to pay lawyers to do it in Court."

Cllr Dorrian added that the motion was submitted after it was already public knowledge that other legal challenges have been lodged on the matter.

"The Councillors who have proposed this wasteful stunt need to explain what they think spending money on yet another legal challenge would achieve for the ratepayers of Belfast," he added.

The Irish News has recently reported that Belfast City Council expects a no-deal Brexit to result in disruption and civil unrest.

A backlog of bin waste and food shortages for animals at Belfast Zoo are among potential issues being planned for.

The council has also arranged for extra generator fuel stocks for its crematorium in case of an electricity blackout.

The move by Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament could limit time for opponents to seek legal changes in order to block a no-deal Brexit.

The Prime Minister intends to suspend Parliament from around September 11 until a new Queen's Speech on October 14.

Critics have said the move is a bid to prevent opposition parties blocking a no-deal Brexit, leaving Boris Johnson free to take the UK out of the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.

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