SDLP stitched up after council employs SDLP system shocker…

THE Equality Commission has found that the SDLP was deliberately excluded by Lisburn Council from an important committee managing the transition to a super-council, with the party claiming that the unionist majority were guilty of “gerrymandering”. And it certainly looks like there was a deliberate attempt to keep the SDLP out of the discussions, with Councillor Peter O’Hagan stating that Lisburn Council’s “own equality scheme required the council to be inclusive and use an informal approach to ensure that the SDLP was part of the committee”. He added:

Instead, in November 2008 the council majority decided to ignore the advice of its own chief executive and use the d’Hondt mechanism… We in the SDLP have constantly warned that extra powers should only be granted to the new super-councils if proper safeguards were in place to ensure fairness and power-sharing. What happened in Lisburn is exactly the sort of thing we were warning about.

Basically, the SDLP councillor is arguing that D’Hondt turned out to discriminate against his party, and that the council’s “informal approach” – a voluntary coalition – should have been kept as the method of appointments. It’s not the first time the SDLP has argued strongly against the D’Hondt system of appointments – even party heavyweight John Dallat wanted to get rid of it in Coleraine Council last year.

So who introduced this iniquitous system of gerrymandering and discrimination into Northern Ireland?

Well, um, that would be the SDLP.


  • Seymour Major


    This is a word that philosophers could debate “until the cows come home”. The problem with that word is that it means different things to different people. In Northern Ireland, the word does not just refer to social equality but to equality between communities, political designation and a whole host of other areas where there is a potential for discrimination.

    Because the word is so synergous with Sinn Fein’s left wing ideology and their desire to maintain sectarian politics, it has become a buzzword of that party’s political language – yet when it did not suit their political agenda, they were happy to ignore their own ideology and look for ways around d’Hondt after they became aware that the SDLP are next in line to accede to the P&J Ministry if it becomes devolved during the current Assembly.

    This leads me to my first point. As in the Lisburn Council case, it is the SDLP which is being shafted. However, because Sinn Fein was one of the parties which was cheating, this sort of incident should be seen in its wider context. When a party makes a power grab which is dubious, constitutionally, in 2010, observers would be making hasty judgment if they simply labelled it as a Unionist versus Nationalist (or sectarian) incident.

    The second point I want to make relates to double jobbing. The involvement of Edwin Poots in this saga highlights another reason why double jobbing is wrong. Thus far, the central arguments against double jobbing have been that an elected representative has not enough time to do two or more jobs properly and/or is overpaid. What this story highlights is that double jobbing increases the likelihood of a politician in office having a conflict or interest when in office.

    Belfast Gonzo, I dont have a problem debating the shortcomings of the d’Hondt system but I think you are mistaken to try and introduce a debate about it here. The last two sentences of your post give the impression that you are trying to smear the SDLP in order to deflect some of the criticism that these Unionist politicians rightly deserve.

  • Seymour Major

    “2010” sorry about the typo. I meant to refer to November 2008

  • ho hum

    Belfast Gonzo you just come across as a sneering secterian loyalist to me maybe not to others thats the wierd thing about how we percieve others and putting everything in its own tight little box.Builders for instance might use two different but similar systems for building the same type of house in two different locations.

  • igor

    I have a suggestion…why not buy a round table and use ‘spin the bottle’ to select members.

    Now I recognise that some local councillors in Lisburn might object as the element of chance would give Satan an influence on committee selection -but they could check under the table before each spin.

  • salem

    The issue is that Nationalists have been excluded from this committee – many in the DUP and UUP would like the Catholics/Republicans/Nationalists in Lisburn to disappear. But we are here to stay and will fight the gerrymandering which is currently under going in Lisburn City.

    I commend Cllr O’Hagan for his continuing fight againist this stance of Lisburn City Council

  • Brian Walker

    Gonzo, May I ask an open question? What say has an existing council over how a successor council is run? What protocols and/or laws exist to prevent procedural abuse in the new councils? Who arbitrates on alleged abuses? Don’t we need to know this to decide the practical relevance of this?

  • Red Diesel Republican

    Gonzo, you are right, but only in a stupidly smartass way, about the SDLP supporting the introduction of D’Hondt. This is one formula for powersharing among groups which are reasonably close to each other in size. It does not guarantee inclusion where there is significant disparity in group size. All it does – all it can do – is confirm the dominance of major groups and exclude small ones. That is precisely why better inclusion mechanisms are apropriate in some cases. Surely you are missing the main point, which is that the unionists in Lisburn deliberately practised exclusion in breach of their own equality commitments. If they cannot be relied upon to honour such commitments the only way forward is legislation to guarantee equality.

  • thereyouarenow

    Old habits die hard

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Seymour, thanks for your considered and thoughtful response. Yes, what happened was clearly an effort by unionist politicians to exclude the SDLP from something they should have been included in. So in that sense, one of fairness, I’m siding with Cllr O’Hagan.

    But there’s another point which might well have gone unmentioned – that the SDLP only supports its own supposed holy grail of D’Hondt when it ensures SDLP appointments. I don’t deny that it’s a secondary issue, but one worth mentioning. Let’s at least get that out in the open.


    You tell me!

  • “party heavyweight John Dallat”

    Just as well I wasn’t eating my porridge, BG 🙂 I’ve known John for quite a long time; I’ve seen him in action both on council and Stormont issues. If he’s an SDLP heavyweight then the SDLP really is in trouble.

    The SDLP caused merriment amongst Unionist councillors in Coleraine some years ago when it proposed the use of d’Hondt – and ended up with fewer posts.

  • “you are trying to smear the SDLP”

    Seymour, I read it differently. IMO BG is merely the irony.

  • Cara

    Nevin, unlike some people I won’t pretend to be a total expert on Stormont issues; however, at a local level, Dallat is one of the best councillors we have ever had in Coleraine.

  • Cara, I dare say he’s not the worst on Coleraine Council but the night I saw him in action at a council meeting about two years ago he was woeful.

  • Cara

    Nevin, I can’t comment on that one night (two years ago) and it’s possibly unfair to judge him on one council meeting(?)…what I would say is that I know quite a few people (from all sides of the community) who have called on councillors for support on various issues and he appears to be the only one who gets on the case straight away.

  • That’s very good, Cara.

  • Hacker

    Strong rumours from Dunmurry has it Sdlp Cllr Heading is set to announce he will put himself forward to run for the sdlp in Lagan Valley. He told a meeting of sdlp members in the Dunmurry area on Wednesday he would seek to the nomination for Westminster. All sdlp hopefuls are expected to apply by filing out an application for the job as candidate and Heading has stuck his in. There is no word of other candidates He still sore over the party losing the Assembly seat in 2007 but has worked on improving his profile and working on the ground. It will interesting see if he can hold the vote or improve on 2007.

  • Hogan

    This is a joke!

    The SDLP should have disowned the Equality Commission’s action (that would’ve been a shocker!!)

    The problem here is that one the one hand the biggest tactical battle the party has fought in the last 18 months was based on its adherance to d’Hondt. You can’t call for d’Hondt to be in place for policing and justice and then rubbish it so that some backwoods councillor was denied a seat on some parochial committee.

    For years it howled in the wilderness on Unionist councils to have a powersharing mechanism in place. When it bites it on the ass what does it do??? cries foul and cheers while the equality commission referee seeks to move the goalposts. The party might point to the CX’s advice about an inclusive approach but in my view i would be better it if it sought to have an iota of pride in a consistent position and accept that on that particular council it doesn’t have enough seats to be on the tea-making committee.

    The solution?? Go out, work hard, and get more councillors elected… Now that would be radical!!!

    O’Hagan should have been told ‘sorry Peter, you’re in Lisburn Council, live with it!’…