Belfast Telegraph

Belfast councillor Bunting suspended due to complaints

By Gareth Cross

Councillor Jolene Bunting has been suspended from Belfast City Council for four months.

She has been suspended while an investigation into complaints against her are carried out.

Councillor Bunting is currently under investigation for breaches of the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors.

She is being investigated for her behaviour towards other people, bringing the council into disrepute, her responsibility under equality legalisation, her use of councillor position and use of council resources.

The decision comes after an Interim Adjudication Hearing held at the Resolution Centre in Belfast on September 4.

Between December 2017 and August 2018 14 complaints were made against Councillor Bunting.

A number of people raised complaints against her including Belfast City Council Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie, Lord Mayor Deidre Hargey, Deputy Lord Mayor Emmett McDonough-Brown and other councillors. 

One complaint was signed by 87 complainants while another was signed by 79 members of the public.

At the hearing Acting Commissioner Ian Gordon found that Councillor Bunting has failed to comply with the Local Government Code of Conduct.

Mr Gordon found that a member of the public, knowing all the relevant facts would consider that her conduct has brought her position as a councillor and the council into disrepute.

He determined that there has been continuing damage to the council's reputation due to Councillor Bunting's failure to adhere to the code of conduct and that her behaviour and subsequent publicity is likely to have negatively impacted public confidence.

The Acting Commissioner decided to suspend her during the investigating due to the "frequent, ongoing repetitive and escalating nature of the alleged breaches of the Code".

Complaints against Councillor Bunting were made a result of her "public statements in relation to the Islamic religion, her association with the far-right group Britain First and the publication of a meme on social media".

In her defence Councillor Bunting said that her association with Britain First was to "encourage it to become more moderate and to improve its structure".

Mr Gordon ruled that maintaining public confidence outweighed the personal and financial impact on Councillor Bunting.

A full hearing into Councillor Bunting's conduct will be held at a later date and in the interim she has the right to appeal the Acting Commissioner's decision to the High Court.

Posting on her social media accounts Councillor Bunting said that she "will continue to tell the truth and no one will silence me".

Councillor Bunting was originally elected as TUV councillor for the Court ward but currently serves as an independent councillor.

She has attracted controversy due to her links to the far-right group Britain First, appearing with leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen at rallies in Belfast.

Fransen caused a stir in January when she gave a speech from the Lord Mayor's Chair at Belfast City Hall, while on a tour of the facility with Councillor Bunting.

Following a falling out she is no longer associated with the extremist far-right group.

Councillor Bunting also faced criticism after a Tweet in May mentioning the Famine in Ireland featuring a cartoon frog meme popular amongst right-wing groups and trolls.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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