Mid and East Antrim port staff withdrawal debate descended into name calling

A heated meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council  to discuss the withdrawal of staff from inspection duties at the Port of Larne descended into name-calling despite a warning from Mayor Councillor Peter Johnston to “be respectful”.

The meeting was called by the Alliance party which is seeking an independent investigation into the “timeline of events, the sources and information which led to this decision and apparent discrepancies around information provided”.

Twelve environmental health officers were withdrawn from their duties at the port over concerns for their safety.

During the specially convened meeting earlier this week, Bannside TUV Councillor Timothy Gaston asked if the proposed investigation would consider the “leaking of confidential information to the press”.

He said that he “would certainly not refer to himself as a tout as Carnlough Jimmy would adhere to.”

Cllr Gaston went on say, that in 2016, the  “Carnlough representative in this chamber” had called him a “d*******”  but “didn’t have the guts to admit it”.

“My question would be is he going to come on tonight and own up or is he going to hide behind the hedges?

“This council took me to the Ombudsman in 2019 when I was man enough to quite openly say where I thought there was an injustice done and decisions we were taking were wrong.

Councillor Timothy Gaston

“I was man enough to say it in the chamber and this council took the decision to take me to the Ombudsman over that.

“I  trust that this council will act upon the leakage of information, confidential information, to the Press that has come out.

“For unionism, I believe this charade tonight is to cover the Alliance Party’s shame in calling for the inplementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol while the pan-Nationalists call for their rigorous implementation of the Northern Ireland  Protocol, I call for the rigorous opposition, from this council, in playing any part in creating, supporting or the implementation of creating any borders to our biggest market and more importantly to my birthright as a Unionist.”

Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown commented that he “no longer considers” Cllr Gaston a “d*******” adding that he is”fairly worth the comic value he brings to this chamber”.

Cllr James McKeown

The motion proposed by Larne Lough Alliance Cllr Danny Donnelly was defeated.

Cllr Gaston has since proceeded to table a question for the forthcoming meeting of the borough council on Monday evening asking for a report which “considers referring Cllr McKeown and Cllr Donnelly to the Ombudsman regarding the alleged leaking of confidential information to the Press over recent weeks” to be placed on the next meeting agenda.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Cick here to read: Larne port council staff removal inquiry motion falls

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