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Blair: Issues for MEA to address after report into Larne Port released

Alliance MLA John Blair has said an AERA committee report into the removal of staff at Larne Port has shown serious inconsistencies in the actions of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Mr Blair was speaking after the Committee report was published on Friday, adding the decision to remove staff without a clear readout from the PSNI of the situation and the move to share a contentious letter with only DUP representatives should give officers at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council pause for reflection on how they would choose to act in the future.

He added: “This is a timely reminder of the need for full openness and transparency, accountability and always following due process at all levels of government.

“Clearly any and all threat to staff must be taken seriously, but this also must be balanced with the PSNI assessment and recommendation and on this occasion this simply didn’t happen. I would urge MEA to think on this and provide a full explanation to the staff involved for the undue stress they suffered.

“But what is also concerning is the decision by senior officials to brief only the DUP when it came to writing a significant political letter to the Cabinet Office, which only came to light when subsequent Freedom of Information requests where published.

“Despite the Chief Executive’s attempts to keep this letter ‘confidential’, this automatically put all other elected representatives on an unequal footing, as they failed to be part of the exclusive club the Chief Executive sought to brief on February 1, including around 10 DUP MLAs, MPs and Councillors – including the former Mayor despite his claims never to have seen it.

“It is vital that MEA Council and SOLACE, brought into Inquiry considerations by the Chief Executive, discuss this report as soon as possible and in the interests of openness and transparency I would urge the Chief Executive not to restrict this debate. Bias has been shown towards one political party and others deserve to have their questions on this addressed.”