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Coleraine Council still excluding republicans and nationalists

27 February, 2008

Sinn Féin Coleraine Councillor Billy Leonard has said that the Council's vote for nominees to sit on a new and important Rural Development Group responsible for millions of pounds was a "disgrace".

Unionists voted down a Sinn Féin proposal for all the major parties to be represented on this five council group and then voted to exclude republican and nationalist representatives for the five available positions.

Cllr Leonard said:

"Unionists on Coleraine Council have once again made a disgraceful example of themselves.

"My proposal reflected fair play for all and was in total harmony with the advice by the Department of Agriculture, that this new system of making money available to rural communities should have all party input.

"Michelle Gildernew plans to invest over £500 million in the Rural Development Programme across the North by 2013. The Minister also succeeded in securing a further £15 million which deals specifically with rural development and an additional £10 million to tackle rural poverty and social exclusion.

"It is therefore obvious that Councillors have a very important role to play on the Groups which are responsible for the distribution of these funds. To purposely vote against inclusion of all the main parties is a total disgrace and leaves Coleraine representation as another Unionist bloc.

We have yet another example of why we need legislation to underpin any new arrangement for local Councils. In the meantime we will keep a very critical eye on how the other Councils vote and therefore if the overall composition is truly representative." ENDS

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