Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Coleraine millions to be decided on behind closed doors

14 December, 2005

Sinn Féin's Coleraine councillor Billy Leonard has said that a Friday evening meeting to decide the future operation of the Council's two caravan sites should be a normal open meeting and not held behind closed doors.

The issue could involve millions of pounds by the possible leasing of the prime sites over 50 years and is likely to be the biggest financial decision the Council will make this term.

Leonard made a proposal to have the important meeting in public but the DUP chair Dessie Stewart refused to even allow the proposal to be debated. Stewart quickly ended Tuesday's council proceedings and walked out leaving some councillors aghast.

Cllr. Leonard said:

"We have a situation of secrecy and an attempt by me to combat that secretive approach totally closed down in dictatorial fashion. It was a shameful act and I believe one that seriously compromises local democracy.

This is an important issue. There are various ways of proceeding so as we go towards decision making it is absolutely vital that Council debates everything in an open, transparent way.

The caravanners, the public at large and the press deserve to hear and record the proceedings. The arguments for and against the various possible future directions of these two sites should be made in public, not behind closed doors.

If this meeting is eventually shrouded in secrecy, suspicions will be aroused. Already some people are asking, is there an agenda or is it already decided? When that happens local democracy is totally demeaned." ENDS

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