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Sinn Fein bullying claims motion rejected by Belfast councillors

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Belfast City Council

Belfast City Council

Belfast City Council

A call from Sinn Fein to set up an independent commission to investigate reports of the "harassment and bullying" by councillors and political parties of Belfast City Council staff was knocked back at a special meeting on Monday night.

In a notice of motion which was proposed by Ciaran Beattie, the Sinn Fein councillor claimed that his party had received complaints from council staff and called for a commission to examine the issue and to make recommendations.

No details of the allegations or who made them were made public during an online council meeting.

However, DUP councillor Brian Kingston's amendment, which replaced the entire wording of Sinn Fein's motion, was passed by 31 votes to 18, with four abstentions.

It stated that the council agrees that any incident of harassment, bullying or intimidation of staff by any member of council or party group is a very serious matter and is unacceptable conduct.

The amendment added that the council agrees to remind staff of the procedures which exist and how they work, and to remind councillors of their responsibility to ensure that they behave appropriately towards staff at all times and act within the Northern Ireland Local Government code of conduct.

In a statement released after the meeting, Mr Beattie said that the rejection of his motion was "shameful".

"It is a matter of grave concern that some political parties on Belfast City Council voted against establishing an independent commission to examine allegations of bullying in this council," he stated.

"The rejection of this motion is shameful and lets workers down.

"No one has anything to fear from an independent commission which sets out to ensure maximum protection for workers with grievances."

During the meeting, Mr Beattie said his party would not go into detail on what the allegations were and claimed he received another complaint on Monday.

"We don't really have any mechanism to deal with the issues of bullying and harassment, particularly senior management - who do they turn to if there's any allegations?" he continued.

However, Mr Kingston produced a copy of Belfast City Council's code of conduct for employees, which outlines how complaints can be made and processed. He also described Sinn Fein's motion as "unspecific and rather vague".

"That is a very serious issue," said Mr Kingston.

"However, we have been given no details on severity or the scale of what Sinn Fein is claiming."

He added: "In conclusion, the DUP group does not see grounds for another independent investigation nor for the establishment of another independent commission.

"The evidence has not been presented to us."

PUP councillor John Kyle said the motion was "disgraceful" and that it made unsubstantiated allegations of bullying and harassment against all parties but Sinn Fein.

"Sinn Fein are alleging harassment and bullying by others and going straight to a public platform and presenting themselves as the guardians of human rights and the defenders of employees rights," he stated.

"What we have here are scurrilous allegations made by a party that considers it unnecessary to comply with normal council protocols and complaints procedures."

Belfast Telegraph