Independent Unionist Councillor suspended from Belfast City Council

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By Rebecca Black, Press Association

An independent unionist has been suspended from Belfast City Council.

Former Democratic Unionist-turned-independent Alderman Ruth Patterson has been suspended from the council for six months.

The measure was announced by the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards after it was found following a hearing that Alderman Patterson had breached the Local Government Code of Conduct.

Alderman Patterson was found to have brought her position as a councillor and the council into disrepute following comments she made at a meeting of Belfast City Council on July 3 2017.

In a speech, she made allegations of links between north Belfast football club Crumlin Star FC and a "man named in parliament as a senior member of the Provisional IRA".

Ombudsman Marie Anderson concluded that in making the comments, Alderman Patterson "had not shown respect and consideration for others, and had not acted fairly, objectively or in the public interest".

Alderman Patterson's suspension is due to start from March 11 and will take her to the end of her term as an elected councillor.

Local government elections are set to be held in Northern Ireland on May 2.

Alderman Patterson was expelled from the Democratic Unionist Party in 2014 and has since sat as an independent.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood, who made the complaint against Alderman Patterson to the ombudsman, welcomed the suspension and additionally called for her to apologise to Crumlin Star FC over the comments.

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