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Furious Sinn Fein calls on Carlin to step down

Sinn Fein has called on a Newtownabbey councillor to stand down after his recent co-option on to the council.

Gerry Kelly made the call after a special meeting of the council two weeks ago when Sinn Fein’s Briege Meehan, who had stepped down from her position due to ill health, was replaced by businessman Brendan Carlin.

Mr Kelly MLA said his party’s voters had been disenfranchised by the move and urged Councillor Carlin to step down so that Sinn Fein could take the seat.

“Sinn Fein will not take this grubby little deal lying down,” said Kelly. “No Independent can bring the political strength and dedication to breaking the veto on equality that Sinn Fein brings.

“This is not a personal attack on Mr Carlin. I made it clear to him that he was a pawn in a murky council power game and should do the decent thing and step aside.”

Mr Kelly said the council had struck a “backroom deal”.

He said: “Sinn Féin had notified the council of its intention to fill the seat, as is customary in councils, to avoid expensive bye-elections.

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“Instead, there was a backroom deal involving the unionists, Alliance and the SDLP to disenfranchise the 1,800 people who had democratically elected Sinn Féin to represent them. The seat was handed to Brendan Carlin as an ‘independent’.

“Newtownabbey Council has consistently treated our voters with contempt.

“Their tactics of excluding our party from council committees, and treating our voters as second class citizens has been their standard practice.

“They have dealt this latest slap in the face to equality after frantically searching for a so-called ‘Catholic Independent' and we have been told that three others who were approached rejected this offer to step into our seat.

“Who I am most surprised about is the SDLP who have joined with unionists to prevent another nationalist taking this seat.

“In every council that unionists control these same back room deals prevail. The only guarantors of equality are Sinn Fein and we demonstrate that commitment by sharing power equally where we are in a majority.

“I look forward to representing the people of Glengormley and just want them to know that our constituency service of myself as a minister in the executive, Councillor Tierna Cunningham and our five full-time advice centre workers are at their disposal.”

Councillor Carlin would not comment on Mr Kelly’s request.

An SDLP spokesman said: “The SDLP supported an independent community candidate, a businessman with cross-party backing who happens to come from the broad nationalist community.

“Councillor Briege Meehan has not been fully active as a councillor for about two years.

“If Sinn Fein were interested in putting forward a person for co-option they certainly made no contact over all those months to seek support for any nomination they may have wanted to make, although we understand that there was a last-minute phone call to the CEO of the council just before the relevant council meeting.

“The reality is that if this had gone to a by-election, the DUP would certainly have taken the seat.

“We believe the public interest has been better served by the co-option of this independent businessman with broad community and cross-party support.”

A spokeswoman for Newtownabbey Borough Council said: “The council received Councillor Meehan’s resignation on Tuesday, March 16, and at a council meeting on April 7, the vacancy was filled in accordance with the regulations, including qualifications for the election to the office of Councillor as set out in Section 3 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972.”

The Mayor Alderman John Scott said: “The council was contacted by Sinn Fein on the day of the meeting to inform them that the party had a nominee, but they failed to put forward a name for consideration. There was no Sinn Fein representative in attendance at the council meeting that evening.

“I would like to commend the level headed approach taken by the local parties in Newtownabbey Borough Council in agreeing to the nomination of Councillor Brendan Carlin.

“My council colleagues and I were aware that the failure to agree on a suitable nomination would result in a by-election.

“The decision has sensibly saved Newtownabbey ratepayers from incurring a £30,000 plus cost for a local by-election.”

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