Northern Ireland

Councillor Ruth Patterson breached code of conduct

Ruth Patterson
Image caption Ruth Patterson made the remarks during a meeting of Belfast City Council in July 2017

A Belfast councillor has been found to have breached the local government code of conduct for making allegations of links between a north Belfast football club and a senior republican.

Ruth Patterson made the comments during a meeting of Belfast City Council in July 2017.

She linked Crumlin Star FC to a "man named in parliament as a senior member of the Provisional IRA".

A sanctions hearing has been adjourned until 4 March.

Ms Patterson was formerly a DUP councillor but was expelled from the party in 2015 and has since sat as an independent.

She was speaking during a debate about whether Crumlin Star, based in Ardoyne and which does not have a home pitch, should use playing fields at Strangford Avenue in south Belfast.

Three aspects of code breached

The unionist councillor said she was against the move, citing the club's alleged links with a member who she claimed was a senior republican.

She was cut short by then Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister while other councillors intervened in protest at her comments.

A complaint about the remarks to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards, Marie Anderson, was lodged by SDLP councillor Tim Attwood.

Image caption The Local Government Commissioner Marie Anderson said Ms Patterson's remarks were "deliberate" and "caused offence" to players and members of Crumlin Star FC

She did not attend a hearing on Monday at which the commissioner concluded she had breached three aspects of the code.

In its determination, the commissioner's office said her remarks were a "deliberate act which caused offence to the players and members" of Crumlin Star FC.

"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."

Football club 'vindicated by decision'

The office also explained that a sanctions hearing had been adjourned until 4 March.

"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."

Mr Attwood said Crumlin Star had been subjected to "reckless and dangerous" allegations and were "vindicated" by the commissioner's findings.

"It is 20 months since Cllr Ruth Patterson, chose to make reckless and dangerous remarks about allegations of links Crumlin Star FC had," he said.

"It is most welcome that the commissioner satisfied herself that Cllr Patterson had brought herself and council into disrepute.

"Crumlin Star FC is an excellent football club which is highly respected in North Belfast. They have been vindicated by this decision."

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