Reid calls for Hargey to intervene at Mid and East Antrim council

matthew o'toole Eugene Reid Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

SDLP Ballymena councillor Eugene Reid has asked Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to intervene in the scandal-hit Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Mr Reid was speaking after further revelations raised significant questions about the inner workings of the council.

He has asked party colleague South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole to ask Ms Hargey what action she has taken to address concerns around the running of the council.

Mr O’Toole has also raised concerns expressed by NIPSA in October who called for Ms Hargey and her department to oversee the running of the council.

Councillor Reid said:

“Every few weeks we see more revelations about scandals involving Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the latest from the BBC Spotlight programme are staggering. As an elected representative it’s extremely frustrating that the attention of councillors is constantly diverted to crisis management when the majority of us would prefer to get on with representing our constituents and delivering the services that matter to them.

“Despite attempts by others to play down the significance of events involving our council they cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet. Public confidence has been badly damaged by the events of the past few months and we need to draw a line under things if we are ever going to have a fresh start and win back that trust.

“I believe it is long past time Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey intervened in this situation – it has long since spiralled out of control. NIPSA first raised its concerns with the minister in October, the problems our council has experienced have been well publicised and still we have seen no action. The Minister needs to take responsibility and exercise her powers until things are back on an even footing.

“I am fed up with the name of our council being dragged through the mud. I got involved in politics because I wanted to improve the lives of local people, but too often we are distracted by matters like this. We need to see full independent investigations carried out into the concerns raised so that we can all get back to doing our jobs and delivering where it counts.”

South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole said:

“In February it was obvious that Anne Donaghy and MEA Council were central to the escalation of the confrontation over the Protocol. Serious questions about whether this was coordinated with the DUP remain. Sometimes in this place we feel like we have moved beyond shock at the conduct of some parties and public officials - but the activities already established inside this council are truly shocking.

"In February I wrote to the Council chief executive asking a series of detailed questions about the murky circumstances around the decision to stand down ports staff. Ten months on, I have received no response and so I welcome the work being done by BBC Spotlight to bring some level of accountability.

“But the seriousness of the situation at MEA requires urgent action from the relevant minister. Minister Deirdre Hargey has the legal power to intervene on this matter and she must use it. I will be working alongside Councillor Reid to ensure the minister takes action on the issues plaguing this institution."

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