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Parties challenged to justify opposition to 7 Council model

23 November, 2005

Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Review of Public Administration, South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has challenged the political parties opposing the 7 council model proposed yesterday to justify how any other model would better defend equality and particularly the rights of minorities.

Mr Maskey said:

"The 7 council model is the only one, we have seen so far, to provide protection for all minorities. It would ensure that within each and every council area there would be a minority of at least 25%. Those who advocate 11 or 15 are failing to tell people that this would result in significant minorities being trapped within council areas where their rights would not be represented or protected.

"Along with the equality and power sharing approach that Sinn Féin insisted upon from the British government Sinn Féin believe that there is an onus on others to come clean about the real reasons they oppose the 7 council model.

"No matter how many councils there are there will always be some that have more unionist or nationalist representatives, currently 13 councils are unionist controlled and 10 nationalist. The 7 council model produces the best degree of community balance.

"Many people within the community will rightly or wrongly believe that politicians who oppose these proposals are looking after their own political future. But this cannot be about politicians or political parties. It is about developing a system of local government based on equality and power sharing with in-built protections for minorities. It is about local government strong enough to influence government polices so that services are delivered to meet the needs of the local community they serve. It is about ending discrimination and guaranteeing inclusion.

"I challenge all who oppose the 7 council model to show that their preference for greater numbers of councils would deliver a greater degree of equality." ENDS

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