Row after suspended DUP drink-drive councillor Thomas Hogg selected to run again
A DUP councillor who has recently been convicted of drink driving has been selected by the party to stand in the upcoming local elections.
Thomas Hogg, who admitted drink-driving in court in Belfast in May last year, will run as a DUP candidate in Macedon in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough in May.
Mr Hogg (30) was banned from driving for 12 months, fined £250 and later suspended from the DUP.
He had been stopped by police on the Crumlin Road in Belfast on April 29 last year.
The Local Government Commissioner for Standards subsequently suspended him from being a councillor for five months.
The watchdog said he “breached the local government code of conduct which states that councillors must not bring their position as councillor, or of their council, into disrepute”.
Mr Hogg accepted the sanction and said he was deeply sorry for his behaviour, promising it would not happen again.
The Belfast Telegraph understands the DUP selected Mr Hogg unanimously during a meeting of the local party association.
It is also understood DUP MPs Nigel Dodds, Gavin Robinson, Emma Little-Pengelly, as well as former DUP party leader Peter Robinson, were present at his selection.
Fellow DUP councillor Tom Smith, who sits on Ards and North Down Borough Council, took to social media to slam the decision to select Mr Hogg.
Posting above a BBC story about Mr Hogg’s suspension, Mr Smith wrote: “I am disgusted that the party has selected this guy to run as a candidate in the council elections.
“He is a convicted drunk driver currently suspended from being a councillor. I know many in the party feel the same but will they speak out? They should.”
Mr Smith has yet to respond to a request for comment, but it is understood he has not been selected by the party to run in the forthcoming council elections.
A DUP spokesperson said: “Councillor Hogg has previously accepted his suspension and apologised for his behaviour.
“He has been selected by party members and we don’t intend giving a running commentary on our selection processes.”
Mr Hogg was elected as a DUP councillor in 2011. He served as mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey for two consecutive years from 2014.
He was made an MBE in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to local government.
Meanwhile, Mr Smith has also hit out at another DUP politician, Jim Wells MLA, over what he described as “an extraordinary rant” as an online row between the two party representatives escalated over the weekend.
Mr Smith and party colleague Andrew Cathcart were blocked by Mr Wells from viewing his Twitter and Facebook posts because of their support for LGBT issues on North Down and Ards Council.
The DUP duo broke ranks with the party to ensure that a motion to light up Ards Town Hall in rainbow colours to mark the start of LGBT awareness week was passed by 19 votes to 18 in December.
Mr Wells publicly criticised the pair, saying he hoped Mr Smith “will soon be an ex-DUP councillor”.
While Mr Wells remains a DUP MLA and party member, he himself has had the party whip suspended from him for the past 10 months after his outspoken criticism of the party leadership.
Mr Smith has refused to back down.
“What an extraordinary rant from someone that I have never spoken to,” he responded.
“I believe in love, compassion, kindness towards others — things I will never be ashamed of.
He added that “only listening to those who agree with you is not the way to build a better community”.
“Talking to others doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it does mean showing them respect and treating them as human beings.”
Mr Cathcart has not responded to Mr Wells’s comments.