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SDLP deny McAteer bullying accusation

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

CONFUSION surrounding who gets to nominate Councillor Kevin McAteer's successor has led to a stand-off that has delayed his resignation from the council.

The outgoing independent councillor accused his former party, the SDLP, of being disrespectful for nominating a candidate whilst he's still in office and said that they had tried to pressurise him out of the council.

The claims have all been denied by the party.

Mr McAteer said that he believes the council's constitution to be ambigious as to whether the SDLP or he himself gets to nominate his replacement.

He said: "Unfortunately the process of my resignation has been delayed until I receive legal advice or some clarity as to who my replacement can be.

"I have read the councils constitution and I believe it to be very ambiguous as to whether the seat reverts back to the SDLP or I can choose the replacement myself."

Accusing the SDLP of trying to exert pressure on him to stand down, Mr McAteer said: "I find it very disturbing however that the SDLP have picked a replacement and have since been piling on the pressure for me to step down. Furthermore the constant harassment by several SDLP activists during my day to day life has to stop."

Mr McAteer accused the SDLP of a lack of sensitivity in relation to his own mental health problems, and belieived they were more concerned with regaining parity with Sinn Fein in the council than with the wellbeing of the young politician.

He said: "Just a couple of months ago Justin McNulty of the SDLP indicated how important it was to build mental heath services and support those with mental health but it seems the rest of the SDLP didnt get that memo.

"They have decided to pressurise and harass a young vulnerable man suffering from mental health problems."

"I have every intention of stepping down but at the moment I would like to pick my own replacement as I believe that the people of Newry would benefit from independent representation as opposed to that of a political party," said Mr McAteer.

Eamonn O'Neill, Chair of Newry, Mourne and Down SDLP, strongly refuted Mr McAteer's accusations of harassment.

"We sympathise with any personal issues Kevin may be experiencing in being able to carry out his duties as a councillor for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council particularly if these are related to mental health and stress," he said.

"There is no substance to his allegations of harassment. Whatever concerns he thinks he has should be detailed to me."

Mr O'Neill said that the legislation in Newry, Mourne and Down Council is very clear and that Mr McAteer's seat would revert back to the party, given he was originally elected on an SDLP ticket back in 2014.

"The rules for replacement of a resigning councillor are clearly set out under the legislation and have already been recently implemented in relation to another resignation on NMDDC. Kevin was elected as an SDLP councillor and those voters have lost out not having the representation they voted for in 2014."

“The SDLP expect that due process will take place if and when Kevin decides to formalise any resignation. In the meantime we wish him well with his personal issues," added Mr O'Neill.

A spokesperson for Newry, Mourne and Down Council, in confirming that Mr McAteer remains a councillor, said: "Councillor Kevin McAteer has not resigned and remains a Councillor with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (Newry District Electoral area)."

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