The Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards has found that Alderman Ruth Patterson (Belfast City Council) breached the Local Government Code of Conduct (the Code) following comments she made at a meeting of Belfast City Council on 3 July 2017.
At an Adjudication Hearing held on 25 February, the Commissioner found that during the meeting Alderman Patterson acted in breach of the Code in linking the players and members of Crumlin Star Football Club to, in the Alderman’s words, ‘a man named in Parliament as a senior member of the Provisional IRA.’ The Commissioner considered this to be a deliberate act which caused offence to the players and members of the club.
The hearing was presented with evidence gathered during the Deputy Commissioner’s investigation into a complaint about Alderman Patterson’s conduct. This included footage of the Alderman’s comments made at the meeting.
After examining the evidence the Commissioner decided that Alderman Patterson’s conduct at the meeting brought her position as a councillor, and the council into disrepute. She also concluded that in making the comments she had not shown respect and consideration for others, and had not acted fairly, objectively or in the public interest.
As such, it was decided that there had been a breach of paragraph 4.2, paragraph 4.13(a) and paragraph 8.1 of the Code of Conduct.
The Deputy Commissioner argued that he believed in this case a suspension would be an appropriate sanction.
However, before deciding on the level of sanction to apply, in the interests of fairness the Commissioner determined that Alderman Patterson should be offered a further opportunity to make representations to her on this issue.
The sanction hearing was therefore adjourned until Monday 4 March.
The Commissioner’s detailed Decision Notice on the case will be issued before Monday 11 March.