Belfast Telegraph

Alliance councillor is urged to resign after drink driving ban

By Mark Edwards

A Co Down councillor has been called on to resign after it emerged he has been convicted of drink driving.

Patrick Brown, an Alliance councillor on Newry, Mourne and Down council, pleaded guilty after being caught riding his motorbike under the influence of alcohol last year. The incident happened on Ballynahatty Road outside Belfast on March 5, 2017.

Cllr Brown has issued an apology telling others not to take the same risks and referred himself to the local government standards watchdog.

However, DUP MLA Jim Wells has called on him "to do the right thing and resign".

Mr Wells said: "Driving over the legal alcohol limit is a serious offence and all public representatives must show by example that it is totally unacceptable.

"Patrick Brown's conviction occurred at the same time as a DUP councillor received a one year ban for drink driving in Randalstown. Trevor Beatty did the right thing and resigned his seat immediately."

Mr Wells also questioned why the councillor had waited six months after his conviction to make a public comment.

He said: "He has referred himself to the Local Government Standards Commissioner, but he didn't do this in July but waited until November 2017.

"Cllr Brown also stated that he 'was using the matter to warn other people never to take such a risk'.

"Many will ask - would Cllr Brown have used the matter to warn others had his conviction not been made public? Had Cllr Brown been genuine in his desire to warn others about the dangers of drink driving he would have made the matter public when he was convicted and issued his statement in July and not January.

"Over the last 37 years as a public representative I have witnessed the injury and loss of life caused by drink driving on the roads of South Down. Many of those who have been convicted have lost their jobs."

He added: "Cllr Brown's position is clearly untenable and he should resign his seat. The Alliance Party should also show how seriously it takes drink driving by taking strong action against him."

Cllr Brown was fined £250 and disqualified from driving for a year but this was reduced after he completed a drink drive offenders' course.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I referred myself to the ombudsman to ensure everything was taken through the proper legal channels and ensure public scrutiny of my foolish mistake.

"The ombudsman is much better qualified to make a decision on this mater than Jim Wells."

"Cllr Brown added he referred himself following the completition of an internal party disciplinary procedure which finished in late October.

An Alliance Party spokesman said nothing could be said about the matter while legal proceedings were ongoing and that party disciplinary procedures and a referral to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards would then follow.

The spokesman added: "The rules state such referrals should be confidential and we adhered to that, allowing due process.

"The commissioner provides an objective standard by which allegations to councillor misconduct can be assessed and adjudicated, and sanctions applied where necessary."

The spokesperson said that Cllr Brown's "commitment to using his experience to warn others pre-dates his conviction".

"Patrick has fully acknowledged the gravity of the mistake he has made, and expressed his distress and full remorse."

He said that the party takes all instances of drink-driving seriously.

Belfast Telegraph

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