An Adjudication Hearing conducted on behalf of the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards, held at the offices of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council offices in Coleraine today (Tuesday 15th November 2016) has found that Councillor Padraig McShane had failed to comply with the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors.

The Hearing was called to consider alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct by Councillor Padraig McShane of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.  Namely that Councillor Clarke had breached 4.6, 4.16 (a), 4.18 (b) and (e) of the Councillor Code of Conduct.

Para 4.6. states:

You must comply with any request of the Commissioner in connection with an investigation conducted in accordance with the Commissioner’s statutory powers.

 Para 4.16 (a) states:

You must not:

  • use, or attempt to use, your position improperly to confer on, or secure, an advantage for yourself of any other person.

Para 4.18 (b) and 4.18 (e) states:

You must note use, or authorise others to use, the resources of your council

  • in breach of your council’s requirements

(e)      improperly for political purposes

 A complaint was made by fellow Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council Councillor Trevor Clarke to the Commissioner for Local Government Standards.

The complaint alleged that Councillor McShane had displayed an Irish tricolour flag and a Palestinian flag in the Chamber at Council headquarters in Coleraine on 19 June 2015.  A photograph of the display, which included (and named) the Councillor McShane, Mohammed Al-Halabi of the Municipality of Gaza and two republican councillors, from Londonderry and Strabane Council, was later published in three local newspapers; the Londonderry Sentinel, the Newsletter and the Ballymoney and Moyle Times on 23 June 2015.  The Complainant Councillor Clarke stated that he believed that the Respondent Councillor McShane had used his position to improperly gain political advantage for himself and others; behaved in a way that negatively impacts Causeway Coast & Glen Borough Council’s reputation; breached the trust and goodwill in which the Mayor granted permission for the Respondent to show the Chamber to his visitor and breached elements of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

Explaining the reasons for his determination that Councillor McShane had breached the Councillor’s Code of Conduct, Acting Commissioner for Local Government Standards Mr Ian A. Gordon said –

There was no express permission granted or sought by the Respondent to use the Chamber to display flags. If he had declared his intended purpose, it would have been refused as evidenced by the statements of the Mayor and Council officials.

 Against the background of a divisive and emotive issue, concerning the display of flags, the council operated on the basis of an interim flags policy where only the Union flag was flown outside the Council building

 The Respondent must have been aware of the current sensitivity and issues around flags both in his council and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

 The Respondent’s misuse of the Council Chamber and his subsequent publication of the photograph was an attempt to use his position as a councillor to secure an advantage for himself or others. The surreptitious manner in which he did so was improper and he knew or ought to have known it would attract publicity and controversy in equal measure.

 The use of the Chamber was clearly for political purposes and in the absence of permission to display flags and given the manner in which the council Chamber was used, this was an improper use”.

 The evidence established that the Respondent had failed to comply with the Code during the investigation by his failures to respond to correspondence from the Commissioner’s office and to attend for interview.

The Hearing was adjourned to a future date to consider the issue of sanction.

On this occasion Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards Mrs Marie Anderson appointed Mr Ian A Gordon as Acting Commissioner and he will adjudicate at Councillor McShane’s Hearing.  Mrs Anderson excluded herself from the Hearing process as prior to her appointment she was the Deputy Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards and had overall responsibility for the investigation of the complaint made against Councillor McShane.

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