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Friday, August 12, 2022

Sinn Fein proposal for legal opinion falls

A proposal by Sinn Fein that legal opinion be sought over an amendment to the Terms of Reference for the Causeway Coast & Glens NI 100 Working Group to include the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, fell with six votes for and 10 against.

The recommendation brought before the Leisure & Development Committee sought to amend the Terms of Reference to include the development of potential events and activities which seek to mark the Platinum Jubilee extending the remit and timeframe of the group.

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Proposing the recommendation was accepted, DUP Alderman Michelle Knight-McQuillan commented: “This group has been very successful in its work and has built up a really good relationship between Members and officers and I think it would be a good opportunity to continue that working relationships in transforming this group to focus on the Jubilee.”

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Questioning if the amendment was ‘procedurally right’, Sinn Fein Councillor Dermot Nicholl claimed these were ‘two separate working groups’, saying: “One is something to do with NI100 and the other the Jubilee for a Queen.

“I can’t equate that. Are we procedurally correct in what’s happening here. I would like to get a legal opinion on this and what we are doing.

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“It’s a working group and to me working groups don’t make decisions. I can’t get my head round this and want clarification from the officers if possible.”

Director of Leisure and Development Richard Baker responded: “A working group can’t make decisions and the recommendation to do this goes from committee to Full Council.

“Ultimately the decision comes down to council as to whether the Terms of Reference of the existing working group can be amended to change the remit for 2022.

“It is procedurally correct that this committee can make a recommendation to Full Council that an amendment can be made to the Terms of Reference.”

The Benbradagh DEA councillor asked for further clarification and legal opinion.

“I don’t think that’s right, it’s creating another working group on the back of a working group. It doesn’t sit right with me and it’s not just because of what the events are.”

Proposing legal advice is sought, Councillor Nicholl said: “I can’t agree with this and I would ask that this is looked at in a legal way.”

DUP Councillor Aaron Callan assured the Sinn Fein councillor that there was ‘nothing odd or suspicious’ about the recommendation and ‘it was procedurally correct’ adding: “If Councillor Nicholl disagrees, then he can vote against it. I suspect the issue is what the Terms of Reference is about.”

The Mayor, UUP Councillor Richard Holmes said ‘being procedurally correct was vitally important’ adding that this was merely a matter of updating the Terms of Reference.

He said: “The Terms of Reference have been updated several times on the Leisure Project Board. It started off looking at Coleraine Leisure Centre and has expanded to include the Ballycastle site and other things.

“I think the Terms of Reference have been update for the Growth Deal several times and Terms of Reference have been updated for other committees Sinn Fein have sat on and I don’t recall procedural concerns at that stage so I don’t see what there should be now.”

PUP Councillor Russell Watton commented: “Here we are again.

“It’s not the Terms of Reference, it’s about the subject matter that is the problem. It’s the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and as Dermott Nicholl said before ‘she’s not my Queen’. That’s what it’s all about, they are just hiding behind the procedural thing.”

Following a five-minute recess Alderman Knight-McQuillan proposed the recommendation but ‘to alleviate Sinn Fein’s concerns’, the solicitor could bring a view back to Full Council. However, Councillor Nicholl pushed for deferral for the legal opinion.

Responding, Alderman Knight-McQuillan stated: “I don’t need a legal opinion, what I proposed doesn’t require it, it’s Sinn Fein and Dermot Nicholl that needs it.

“I thought I was being amenable, suggesting we could get a legal opinion to Full Council but I won’t agree to a deferral.”

Alderman Knight-McQuillan’s proposal to accept the recommendation passed with 11 votes for and five against.

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