Belfast Telegraph

Council's decision to sponsor Ian Paisley dinner using ratepayers' money branded 'disgraceful'

By Mark Edwards

A decision by a Northern Ireland council to use ratepayers' money to sponsor a table at a dinner hosted by MP Ian Paisley has been branded "disgraceful".

It emerged on Friday that Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council paid £1,500 for a table at the event hosted by the North Antrim MP in September 2017.

The Electoral Commission is investigating Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's decision to also sponsor a table for £1,500 at the same event,

Sinn Fein councillor Cara McShane said: “As elected representatives, we were not made aware of, or were asked to consent to this decision so for council officials to decide to spend ratepayers' money attending a DUP fundraiser is disgraceful."

Cllr McShane called for the Electoral Commission to investigate.

TUV leader Jim Allister said it was time for the DUP to clarify where the money from the dinner went and called on the DUP to publish an audit showing the actual cost of the event and what effect the £3,000 had on the final bill the party had to pay.

In a statement, the UUP group at Causeway Coast and Glens Council said they have written to the Chief Executive of the local authority to obtain information relating to the event.

"We would be deeply disappointed to discover that council funds were being used to attend political fundraisers," the statement added.

“A number of questions have been submitted to the Council this morning in a bid to shine some light on the circumstances surrounding this event.

“We await the answers with interest and once we have the full facts, we will then take whatever action is necessary.”

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, Causeway Coast and Glens Council said the council agreed to attend the event because it felt its invited guests would benefit from the subject matter of the dinner which was "Environment, Food and Rural Affairs".

A spokeswoman added: "The cost to Council was £1,500 which was funded from Council’s Economic Development budget. The payment was made by bank transfer directly to the Tullyglass Hotel.

"A specific Council minute which relates to this matter is not required nor exists."

The council referred the Belfast Telegraph to the Local Government Order 2002 which states councils have the power to make payments for the purposes of economic development.

The spokeswoman added: "This is the statutory power which Council relied on to make the payment."

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