So farewell then Councillor Tom Hartley, Sinn Fein Councillor for Lower Falls.
So farewell then Councillor Gerard O’Neill, Sinn Fein Councillor for Upper Falls.
So Farewell then Councillor Danny Lavery, Sinn Fein Councillor for Oldpark.
All have announced their resignation from Belfast City Council. They were elected to the Council in 2011 but are bowing out before the 2014 Council Election.
They will of course be replaced by three “co-options”. Decided by Sinn Fein, they will be a mixture of bright young things and boys (and maybe girls) from the Felons Club.
And…STOP PRESS….Councillor Conor Maskey has also resigned to be (probably) re-cycled.
Co-Option is the process where the Party of a deceased or resigning councillor nominates the successor…and it is nodded thru by the Council, without a bye-election.
At its best, it is all very civilised.
In multi-seat constituencies, take Upper Falls…there are five elected councillors. Four Sinn Fein and one SDLP. The resignation of the SDLP councillor and the co-option of a SDLP replacement is the decent thing to do…preserving as it does the mandate and respecting the wishes of the minority SDLP voters.
Sinn Fein could of course trigger a bye-election by blocking the SDLP nominee but a convention has been established in the Assembly and local council chambers where rival parties will do the decent thing when a councillor resigns or dies.
It is a civilised approach and works well but sadly open to abuse and Sinn Fein and DUP have done it rather too much. Double jobbing …the process where a politician is elected to serve in more than one Legislature and the public disapproval has meant that politicians have resigned one job and a co-option has been accepted.
Its over-use is an insult to the electorate.
In fairness its not really an issue that disturbs many people, in part because it is not exactly on the radar.
There are of course alternatives to electing an individual. We could have a “list system” whereby people vote for a Party and the Party nominates people from their Party.
Why are Sinn Fein doing this?
Well in part, they want to bring forward some new faces and give them a profile before the 2014 Election.
In part, its a disciplinary device. SF have a…dare I say it….military discipline. Their personnel are less important than the overall “Goal”.
Sinn Fein (they claim and it is disputed) pool their individual income and re-allocate it to the Party as a whole. So there is no (allegedly) more benefit to being a MLA or “advisor” in Stormont or local advice centre.
Personally I think that it is a shame that a convention designed to ensure the protection of smaller parties is so abused.