Mid & East Antrim Council have extended the number of councillors on a Peace IV Partnership following concerns raised over political balance.
Last month, councillors voted to appoint six Unionist members to the new partnership body which will administer a potential £4m of European Peace IV funds across the borough.
At that meeting, members agreed by a majority vote of 19, with 10 against, to use the D’Hondt system requiring the selection of three DUP, two UUP and one TUV councillors. Guidance from the Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB) referred to “six members representing the main political groups”.
However, at the June monthly meeting members were informed by their CEO Anne Donaghy that further guidance had been received from SEUPB.
It was subsequently recommended to councillors to extend their number on the partnership from six to 10, using d’hondt, which the Chief Executive said would require five DUP, two UUP, one SF, one Alliance and one TUV seat.
However, SDLP Councillor Declan O’Loan who had criticised the previous month’s decision to appoint only Unionist members to the partnership, said that having one nationalist representative out of 10 was ‘not the solution’ and “does not meet the spirit of the guidance”
Cllr O’Loan told the meeting he would be writing to SEUPB asking them “to keep their backbone stiff in relation to this matter”.
Responding, Cllr Stephen Nicholl disagreed, stating that in relation to achieving political balance “this does address some of that and will address it going forward”.
He added that given nationalist councillors represented 10 per cent of the Council membership, having one Nationalist representative on the partnership would be “fully reflective of the Council”.
Cllr Gregg McKeen proposed, seconded by Cllr Paul Reid, to extend the council membership on the partnership to 10. The proposal was carried by a vote of 37 for and one against.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Cr O’Loan said: “I welcome the fact that SEUPB would not accept an all-Unionist group on the Partnership. The Council had to back down but it did so with ill grace.
“A single Sinn Fein member out of ten is not appropriate representation on a Peace partnership. I am disappointed in Sinn Fein for accepting this proposal. The number of social partners on the Partnership will now have to be increased proportionately, creating a very unwieldy body. This kind of nonsense should not be accepted from a Council and I will put that point to SEUPB.”