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Nicholl: We are all let down by virtual meeting farce

Alliance Councillor Kate Nicholl has hit out at Belfast City Council’s attempts to hold a virtual meeting, calling it a “farce and a complete let down” as all other Councils in Northern Ireland have moved forward successfully with the format.

Speaking after a special meeting held to decide if Committee meetings would take place before August – a move defeated by the DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP and PUP – Kate said it was unacceptable that the Council had opted for a format that would only allow 18 members attend online.

“I am frustrated, angry and disappointed in democracy after that farce of a meeting that had the potential to signal a new way of operating meetings as we battle Covid-19. Instead we face months where every single elected representative, regardless of party, has lost the right to have their voice heard at all Council and Committee meetings.

“If the technology only accommodates so many, instead of accepting this and trying to downplay the importance to members, research and find a programme able to allow all representatives to join meetings – every other Council in Northern Ireland has managed to do this yet Belfast City Council claims it can’t be done.

“As a ratepayer I’m angry that tonight signalled a return to closed down decision making for the months ahead, as an elected member I’m frustrated I’ve been blocked by others from representing those who elected me and finally I’m disappointed in all those who have stood in the way of democracy.

“For some reason the DUP, UUP and Sinn Féin don’t want a full schedule of meetings, help us change their mind – lobby your local rep and demand they support full openness and transparency at City Hall.”