Sinn Fein on a witch-hunt over pallets, says Rodgers
Sinn Fein has been accused of exploiting the theft of 3,000 pallets being stored by Belfast City Council in order to lead a "witch-hunt" against its chief executive, a veteran Ulster Unionist has claimed.
Jim Rodgers also claimed that the investigation into why the council agreed to store the wooden pallets for a loyalist bonfire would cost ratepayers "a few thousand pounds".
The probe, to be led by the chief executive, was agreed by councillors after a vote on Monday night.
The council had been storing 3,000 pallets for loyalist bonfires that were stolen from its premises.
"I believe that this is a witch-hunt by Sinn Fein against the chief executive and council officers to exploit the situation," Mr Rodgers claimed.
"Deals are done on a regular basis between councillors and officers. What Sinn Fein is calling 'secret deals' is what I would call part of the normal political process."
At Monday night's council meeting Sinn Fein said it had been "kept in the dark" about the decision to store the pallets.
But Mr Rodgers said Sinn Fein was being "hypocritical", alleging that its councillors failed to appear at a meeting of the East Belfast Bonfire working group in May when the issue was discussed.
"There was only a small attendance but the officers were given the go-ahead. It was agreed to take the pallets to a safe location and bring them back again in good time. I find it hypocritical for Sinn Fein to have been invited to that meeting, not to attend and then to criticise the decision that was made. Officers were doing their civic duty by trying to get a resolution."
Sinn Fein's Jim Veigh branded the "witch-hunt" comments "disgraceful" and said that his party had an "exceptionally good relationship with the chief executive" and had worked "successfully" with her.
He said he did not know if party representatives attended the May meeting of the East Belfast Bonfire Group, but described it as "a red herring".