Councillors missed 596 meetings

LONDONDERRY’S local elected representatives together missed nearly 600 council meetings in 2010/11 collectively turning up for just 70 per cent of over 2000 planned sittings they were being paid £10k a year to attend, according to Derry City Council records.

Six councillors attended 50 per cent or less of their appointed meetings whilst 17 attended less than two-thirds of the times they should have.

DUP Assembly Speaker and former Alderman William Hay had the worst attendance record turning up for just one of 24 (4 per cent) committee meetings he was expected at in 20010/11. Due to his dual mandate, Mr Hay, of course stood down and Gary Middleton was co-opted in his place.

This discounts the record of former SDLP councillor and current SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey who resigned last June and failed to turn up at the one meeting he had left as a councillor and also that of former Sinn Féin councillor Billy Page who could not attend council due to ill health.

After Mr Hay the next worst attendance record was that of former SDLP MLA and Stormont Social Development Committee member Mary Bradley, who attended only six out of 54 (11 per cent) meetings.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell attended just 16 of 54 meetings (30 per cent) whilst also being a serving member of the Stormont Assembly and Parliament. He also stood aside.

However unionist councillors - Maurice Devenney, Drew Thompson, Joe Miller and Mary Hamilton - were amongst the best attenders.

Former Sinn Féin councillor Peter Anderson attended just seven out of 20 (35 per cent); former Mayor Colum Eastwood just 38 out of 101 (38 per cent) whilst juggling first citizen responsibilities; and Mr Hay’s co-opted replacement - the DUP’s Gary Middleton - attended 11 out of 23 meetings (48 per cent) in his first couple of months as a representative.

Thus six local representatives weren’t at their desks for roll-call for 50 per cent of their scheduled meetings whilst a grand total of 17 attended less than two-thirds of the time but still picked up their annual allowance of £9,738.

The 11 councillors who turned up at over 50 per cent but less than 66 per cent of their scheduled meetings were as follows: Kevin Campbell SF attended 40 out of 71 ((56 per cent); Gerry MacLochlainn SF attended 39 out of 67 (58 per cent); Elisha McLaughlin SF attended 33 out of 54 (61 per cent); Ann Donnelly SDLP attended 30 out of 49 (61 per cent); Lynn Fleming SF attended 40 out of 65 (62 per cent); Thomas Conway SDLP attended 52 out of 84 (62 per cent); Gerard Diver SDLP attended 39 out of 61 (64 per cent); Colin Kelly SF attended 24 out of 37 (65 per cent); Maeve McLaughlin SF attended 36 out of 55 (65 per cent); Helen Quigley attended 36 out of 55 (65 per cent); John Tierney SDLP attended 35 out of 54 (65 per cent).

Despite the overall poor attendance record some of our local representatives should be given a medal for their commitment to local democracy.

Top of the class was SDLP councillor Jim Clifford who attended a staggering 68 out of 68 meetings (100 per cent).

He was followed by Sinn Féin’s Patricia Logue who attended 62 out of 64 (97 per cent) and then SDLP councillor Mark H. Durkan who attended 85 out of 91 (93 per cent).

A trio of Waterside unionist Aldermen - all of whom were at their desks for over 90 per cent of the time in 20010/11 - had the next best attendances. DUP Aldermen Drew Thompson and Maurice Devenney attended 93 out of 101 (92 per cent) and 74 out of 81 (91 per cent) respectively whilst UUP Alderman Mary Hamilton attended 73 out of 81 (90 per cent). Paul Fleming SF also attended 52 out of 57 (91 per cent).

The remaining politicos were present for their scheduled meetings between 78 per cent and 88 per cent of the time.

These were Tony Hassan SF (88 per cent); Sean Carr SDLP (88 per cent); Joe Miller DUP (83 per cent); Jim McKeever SDLP (81 per cent); Eric McGinley SF (80 per cent); Martin Reilly SDLP (80 per cent); Brenda Stevenson SDLP (80 per cent); Shaun Gallagher SDLP (78 per cent).