Mayor slammed for abuse

THE new Mayor of Craigavon has been accused of abusing his position.

It comes after Alan Carson twice broke with protocol during Monday night’s council meeting.

As the Mayor concluded the opening announcements he made an exception to congratulate Alderman Woolsey Smith on reaching his 80th birthday. Mr Smith was presented with a gift and several unionist councillor spoke to congratulate him.

Directly after the presentation the Mayor called for another break from protocol to allow him to talk about an “important” issue. He pre-empted his words by saying no one else in the council chamber would be allowed to speak on the matter.

Mr Carson went on to congratulate Portadown District LOL No 1 for an “excellent night” at the Mini Twelfth in Portadown.

He said it was a community celebration and with this in mind he called on the Parades Commission to “get their act together” to have the parades issues resolved to the satisfaction of both sides of the community.

He concluded by raising the issue of Drumcree before angry Sinn Fein members spoke up.

Sinn Féin Group Leader Johnny McGibbon said: “You’re abusing your position as mayor to make a political statement.”

Mr Carson reminded him he was not permitted to speak. Mr McGibbon said he was speaking up on behalf of the nationalist community. Voices were raised from members of Sinn Fein and the Mayor said he could have him ejected if he continued to speak.

Sinn Fein Councillor Mairead O’Dowd addressed Mr Carson saying: “You’ve already used your influence to make a presentation to Alderman Smith. You will not tell us when we can and can’t speak.”

Mr Carson announced he was moving on to the next point in the agenda and the situation eventually calmed down.

He said: “I do not want to cause any problems in the chamber.”

Following the meeting Mr McGibbon described DUP Mayor Alan Carson’s breaking of protocol as a “disgraceful and outlandish abuse of his position”.

The Sinn Fein councillor said: “There appears to be an attempt in some quarters to heighten tension in relation to the issue of parades.

“On Monday night, the DUP’s Alan Carson participated in this campaign with a disgraceful and outlandish abuse of his position. Cllr Carson when elected to the Mayoral role, just a few weeks ago, declared he would endeavour to represent all sides of the Craigavon community.

“Unfortunately, by using his position to make a political declaration on behalf of the Orange Order he has abused his office and given a clear indication that he will represent only one particular point of view.”

Cllr McGibbon continued: “Sinn Féin have forwarded a complaint to the Council Chief Executive and await their investigation.

“The Mayor’s attempt to silence Sinn Féin elected representatives, and his subsequent threat to remove Sinn Féin members from the chamber were equally as outlandish as his original statements and clearly indicate the Councillor’s unfitness to hold this office.

“I have little doubt that this incident and in particular Cllr Carson’s public pronouncement of partisan views whilst holding the Chair of Craigavon Council will have embarrassed more than a few members of the local DUP leadership.”

SDLP Craigavon Councillor Joe Nelson has said the Mayor of Craigavon must work harder to bring inclusivity and openness to the position and not merely support party politics during his year in office.

He said: “At the council meeting Mayor Alan Carson made it clear that he would not be allowing comments from any of the members before making a statement in relation to the Drumcree issue. This is in my opinion a clear abuse of his position.

“Mr Carson has gone on record as saying he would preside over his year in office with inclusiveness, representing all sections of the community.

“Unfortunately, Mr Carson’s comments went against this theme and have gone some way to entrenching the same old arguments and tensions.

“He has failed so far to gain the confidence of all sections of the community”.