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.