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Unionists fail to take power on Belfast Council

A unionist bid to carve up power in Belfast City Council has failed after members voted to change rules on how committee representatives are chosen.

At a special meeting last night, councillors agreed to allocate the mayoral positions and committee chairmanships to the largest political party — and not to the largest political grouping, as in previous years.

The emergency meeting was convened by Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Party after the DUP, UUP and Independent councillor Frank McCoubrey teamed up to form the Belfast City Unionist Group which, with 19 members, would have been entitled to first pick of the top posts under the old rules.

A proposal from Sinn Fein’s Jim McVeigh to “consider the deletion of the current Standing Order 37 ... and to replace the words ‘political groupings’, ‘political groups’ and ‘groups’ with the words ‘political parties’ or ‘parties’ as appropriate” was carried by 27 votes to 19.

Addressing the chamber last night during a lengthy and at times bitter debate, Mr McVeigh said: “People in this city voted for political parties that had manifestos. They did not vote for make-believe political groups.”

Veteran UUP man Jim Rodgers said he feared the changes would mean a “disastrous” four years for Belfast’s unionist community.

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