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Sinn Fein call for local government power sharing legislation

6 June, 2007

Sinn Féin has called on Environment Minister Arlene Foster to introduce legislation to safeguard equality and power-sharing in local councils. Lagan Valley MLA Paul Butler has said that there is an unwillingness of unionists on Councils like Lisburn and Antrim to enter into partnership politics.

Mr Butler said:

"Whilst there have been moves by some unionists to share power with nationalists within a small number of local councils this has only occurred because of changing political strengths. Yet within most unionist councils where there is a unionist majority, such as Lisburn and Antrim, unionists still seem to be incapable or unwilling to work in partnership with Sinn Fein.

"Lisburn council's unionists practice a system of political apartheid, refusing to share power with their nationalist counterparts and, in the process, ride roughshod over the principles of equality and parity of esteem, which are meant to be the hallmark of this post-Good Friday Agreement era.

"The shameful practices attributed to this one Council provide ample evidence as to why unionist-controlled local government councils must be governed by legislation that brings about power sharing arrangements.

"One way to confront this, in the absence of a change of policy amongst unionists - is for the Minister of the Environment Arlene Foster to legislate for a system of power-sharing on local councils that matches the one incorporated in the Good Friday Agreement for the Assembly.

"The d'Hondt principle should be put in place to ensure that positions of civic leadership on councils are shared in a fair manner throughout the lifetime of that Council; and more importantly, voting procedures within local councils must include safeguards for minorities to ensure that nationalists living in majority unionist council areas, like Lisburn, are not subject to any discriminatory practices or indeed the fall out from politicians who show no sign of embracing the new politics of equality and power-sharing promised six years ago in the Agreement." ENDS

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