Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Mayor Finucane urged to reflect on his ‘unbecoming’ behaviour and consider quitting after indecency caution

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane has been told to consider the example he has set — and whether he is fit to be First Citizen — after he was sanctioned by police for urinating in the street.

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Complaints have been made to the Local Government Standards Commission after the Belfast Telegraph revealed the Sinn Fein councillor was “caught short” on a night out.

The DUP said his behaviour was “unbecoming” of the Lord Mayor’s office.

The Alliance leader on the city council Michael Long added: “Given John Finucane is a lawyer and holds the role of Lord Mayor of Belfast, it was a foolish thing to do, especially when public urination can end up with a conviction for indecency.

“He needs to reflect on what type of example it shows.

“There were no doubt many toilets in the area which could have been used instead of resorting to what he did.”

TUV leader Jim Allister — who highlighted how Mr Finucane currently holds the highest elected office in Northern Ireland — said while he did not feel Mr Finucane should step down as a councillor, he should consider his position as mayor.

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said the matter was “done and dusted”. She said the timing of the story leaking was “convenient”.

“He said he is sorry, he has apologised to the public, the people he represents, so I think that is the matter done,” she said.

She added she did not think it would harm his election campaign.

“The man was caught short. He worked with the police and dealt with it in a way that was appropriate.”

Mr Finucane said he was “deeply sorry” over the incident.

He was handed a community resolution notice — a means of dealing with less serious offences which avoids a formal prosecution.

The 39-year-old has been Lord Mayor of Belfast since May. It is understood Belfast City Council was unaware of the incident.

DUP leader on the council George Dorrian said the behaviour was “unbecoming” of the Lord Mayor.

“It is very disappointing someone who holds a senior role would disrespect their position in such a way,” he said.

Social media users were split with many saying it was “much ado over nothing” while others said it was not the behaviour of a mayor.

Some highlighted that it showed the need for more toilet facilities.

“If one has got to go, he’s got to go,” said Ben Hunt on Facebook.

“Been in that situation myself shortly after leaving a bar. It’s something that cannot be helped ... as long as it is discreet.”

Eleanor Moor added: “There is a lack of facilities everywhere... I hope he will use his office to bring up the lack of facilities because it’s worse for women and people with disabilities.”

Many said the Lord Mayor should have revealed the matter at the time it happened rather than it coming out months later.

David Murray added: “The timing is irrelevant, it’s still inappropriate behaviour of a Lord Mayor.”

One Belfast councillor, who asked not to be named, said that while the matter was embarrassing for Mr Finucane, calls for his resignation were misplaced.

“We have all been there,” he said.

Mr Allister has written to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards over the matter.

Pointing to the code of conduct for councillors which says that elected representatives “must act lawfully” and in a manner which does not bring their position or the council into disrepute, Mr Allister called for an investigation.

He said: “In accepting what amounts to a caution for a criminal offence of indecent behaviour, Mr Finucane has demonstrably fallen foul of standards expected of someone who holds public office. Not least as he holds the primary elected position in all of Northern Ireland as the mayor of Belfast.”

He called on the standards commission to explore if he “lived up to the expectations of the code of conduct” and to consider possible sanctions, saying that in the past the watchdog had reprimanded others for social media posts.

“He is really putting himself in a pivotal position. Is that the image Belfast wants from its Lord Mayor?” he asked.

Former Lisburn councillor Mairia Cahill said the Lord Mayor should have referred the matter to the council at the time it happened.

“The council has a policy on keeping streets clean,” she tweeted. “It’s unhygienic.”

The incident occurred in the Cathedral Quarter area on June 29. Mr Finucane said he had tried to get into his Castle Street office but did not have a key.

“I tried to find somewhere as discreet as possible off the main street,” he said. “I co-operated fully with police, and accepted this community disposal.

“I am of course very embarrassed and deeply sorry about this incident and I apologise unreservedly.”

The PSNI describes community resolution as providing “a quicker, more victim-tailored method of dealing with specific offences than a formal prosecution where a comparatively minor crime has been committed”.

A spokesman for the local government standards commission confirmed a complaint was “being assessed under our normal procedures”.

Belfast City Council said it would be making no comment.

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