SF-SDLP war of words over Lisburn equality

By Ciara Quinn

LISBURN Sinn Féin Councillor Arder Carson has hit out angrily at the SDLP – including Lisburn Mayor Brian Heading – for what he said was their refusal to support equality measures on Lisburn City Council.Cllr Carson was speaking after a proposal to introduce a scoring matrix to assess future capital build projects was sent back to committee for reconsideration after the SDLP refused to back it.

Mr Carson said the SDLP had made a “selfish decision” in  not supporting the motion. But the SDLP hit back, saying they had sent the scoring matrix plan back because it was “half-baked”.

“The adoption of the scoring matrix proposed by the Chief Executive on future capital spend by Lisburn City Council would have brought greater levels of transperancy and accountability, set priorities against clear criteria and would have ensured a much more equitable distribution of future investment projects.

“Key to this matrix were Council strategy, equality and objective need dimensions. All of the parties except the DUP were in favour of this matrix being adopted.

“The active decision by the SDLP grouping on Lisburn City Council to send the issue back to committee in the first place –  and then abstain on a vote at full Council that would have brought these equality measures into operation – is astounding and smacks only of self-interest,” he said.

“Given the fact that Lisburn has traditionally been a bastion of discriminatory practices I believe this was an opportunity to make an impact on that. The fact that one SDLP councillor did not turn up to vote, while a second abstained, removing the need to involve the SDLP Mayor, who potentially had the casting vote, means serious questions need to be asked.

“The most startling fact is that at the special Strategic Policy Committee meeting leading to this being brought before full Council the SDLP supported this motion.”

Cllr Carson believes that the SDLP have “done a deal with the DUP to advance their own interest by securing future Committee Chairs or Mayoral office”.

“However, their selfish decision has now left those communities most in need of capital investment, many of whom the SDLP claim to represent, having to battle harder for such monies from a Council with a strong track record in maintaining the status quo.”

SDLP Councillor Pat Catney told the Andersonstown News that his party were not going to sign up to anything “half-baked”.

“Having assessed these proposals we felt that they were not fair to everyone in Lisburn City Council area and were heavily weighted against those in rural areas.

“The Committee must go back to the drawing board on this issue and come up with proposals which ensure fairness and equality for everyone regardless of whether they live in the town or countryside.”

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