Questions on inquiry into Larne port staff removal decision ruled out at council meeting

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly says that there are questions to be answered over evidence by Mid and East Antrim chief executive Anne Donaghy to the DAERA inquiry into the removal of staff from the Port of Larne.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 1:08 pm

Speaking at this month’s meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Cllr Donnelly said: “We have some issues regarding the accuracy of the submitted evidence which we will be writing to the chief executive about.”

The inquiry commenced after the DAERA Committee  sought further investigation into the circumstances surrounding the decision to withdraw port staff in February.

Sinn Fein Cllr Ian Friary, a Bannside representative, said: “It could be suggested that you sent a letter to the British Cabinet Office on the advice of three DUP MPs, one of which wasn’t within the council area.

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Graffiti

“This letter is extremely political in nature and in fact its context could be lifted straight from a DUP press release.”

Larne Lough DUP Alderman Paul Reid pointed out that the mayor had told members, in his opening remarks a few minutes previously, that there would be no discussion on this as this was still a “live case”.

“I believe we are going down a route that is contrary to your ruling,” he noted.

However, the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston, said: “It would be extremely inappropriate for us to comment on further details and would remind members we have a legal obligation in this council and would reiterate evidence given to the committee is on behalf of council.”

He also thanked the chief executive for providing an “extremely thorough and detailed summary of events”.

Cllr Friary said that “surely people have a right to know” but was told by the mayor that there will be “sufficient opportunity following the inquiry”.

Bannside TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston warned that he did not want Mid and  East Antrim Borough Council to suffer “reputational damage” or to be left with “any grey areas”.

He also spoke of his disappointment that the mayor and chief executive had been called back to the committee,  adding that he hoped it would be “an opportunity to clarify a few of the details”.

“Mid and East Antrim took the decision and I don’t believe there is anything to hide and I don’t want any brand or reputational damage to come to the council with any grey areas left.”

The Mayor replied: “Absolutely. Comments well heard.”

Twelve council environmental health officers were withdrawn from inspection duties at the Port of Larne over “concerns for their safety and welfare” following “an upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour” in recent weeks.

This included the appearance of graffiti in the Larne Harbour area describing port staff as “targets” and suspicious activity involving apparent information gathering, including the taking of personal vehicle registration numbers.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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Click here to read: International interest in Larne views on protocol controversy

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