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Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson found to have breached code of conduct over Crumlin Star FC speech

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Former DUP councillor Ruth Patterson.

Former DUP councillor Ruth Patterson.

Former DUP councillor Ruth Patterson.

Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson has been found to have breached the council code of conduct when she made a speech linking Crumlin Star Football Club to a senior republican.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards Marie Anderson was due to rule on what sanctions were to be imposed on Ms Patterson on Tuesday.

However, Ms Anderson has given Ms Patterson a week to make written representations as to what sanctions will be imposed.

The case relates to a speech, written by loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, that the Botanic councillor made during a Belfast City Council debate about Crumlin Star FC in July 2017.

The Ardoyne-based club was seeking to use playing fields at Strangford Avenue in south Belfast. The club is now based at Cliftonville Playing Fields.

Ms Patterson claimed the club had a member who was a senior republican. Then Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister cut her short during the speech after strong protests from fellow councillors.

The commissioner found that Ms Patterson's comments were a "deliberate act which caused offence to the players and members of the club".

The commissioner found she had not shown respect and consideration for others, and had not acted fairly, objectively, or in the public interest. The deputy commissioner argued that he believed in this case a suspension would be appropriate sanction.

A further sanction hearing will take place on Monday March 4.

Ms Patterson told the Belfast Telegraph: “I have been advised by the commissioner that no final decision has been made in relation to the outcome of my case, and indeed this will not happen until next week.

“I will not personally be making any further comment until the proceedings have concluded.”

Patrick McGlinchey, secretary at Crumlin Star FC, praised the Ombudsman's investigation, saying it was a "extremely fair and meticulous "

"We are delighted that this has been brought to a conclusion and the club has been vindicated," he said.

"We have always had a tremendous reputation right across the board. We have outreach right across the city. We have Protestants members of the club, we are a non-sectarian non-political club. It is a broad church, everyone has a part to play in our club.

"For Ms Patterson to bring this into what was purely a football debate is disgraceful."

The original complaint was made by SDLP councillor Tim Attwood.

He said: “It is 20 months since Cllr Ruth Patterson, chose to make reckless and dangerous remarks about allegations of links Crumlin Star FC had. It is most welcome that the Commissioner satisfied herself that Cllr Patterson had brought herself and Council into disrepute.

"The Commissioner found that Cllr Patterson had failed to show respect to the Club and greatly offended Éamon Hawkins, treasurer of Crumlin Star FC. Crumlin Star FC is an excellent football club which is highly respected in North Belfast. They have been vindicated by this decision.”

Belfast Telegraph