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Deputy mayor steps down from PCSP role as council passes motion of ‘no confidence’

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Deputy mayor steps down from PCSP role as council passes motion of ‘no confidence’ thumbnail

A MOTION of 'no confidence' in Ulster Unionist councillor, Derek Hussey, has been passed at council however the Castlederg politician has insisted he will not step down from his role as Deputy Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council.
He has however stepped aside from his role as chairman of the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).
At Thursday's full meeting of the council, Sinn Féin tabled the motion of 'no confidence' against Alderman Hussey following public outcry over his appointments to the roles and his drink-driving convictions.
Alderman Hussey has faced increasing pressure in recent weeks to resign from his positions amidst objections from other elected representatives as well as families who have suffered bereavements due to drink-drivers.
The former MLA - who took up the deputy mayorship at the beginning of June - has three previous convictions for drink-driving. He was banned for five years in 2016 and has other convictions in 2004 and 2011.
Standing orders were suspended at Thursday's meeting where the motion was tabled by Sinn Féin group leader, Sandra Duffy, calling on Alderman Hussey to step down from his positions.
"His repeated convictions for drink-driving are not conducive with the role of the PCSP chair and his refusal to accept this has undermined the zero tolerance approach which public authorities must demonstrate towards this crime. As such, he has lost the confidence of this chamber and the general public to represent them," the motion added.
'Immense hurt'
Speaking on the motion, she urged Alderman Hussey to "do the right thing" and listen to the pleas of relatives who had suffered "immense hurt" due to his appointments.
"We have already objected to Derek Hussey's appointment as chair of the PCSP on the grounds that someone with repeated drink driving convictions should not be leading a body tasked with public safety matters. And while we accept that everyone is entitled to a second chance, it is clear that Derek Hussey has had several but continued to display the most atrocious disregard for public safety," she said.
Cllr Duffy said Alderman Hussey had lost the confidence of the public and that his "appointment and attitude" had "retraumatised" bereaved relatives - many of whom were seated in the public gallery for the meeting.
She conceded that the passing of the motion could not compel Alderman Hussey to "stand down" but said it would symbolise the council's support to all families who have been affected by drink-driving.
The SDLP's Brian Tierney who seconded the motion said it was a "very difficult issue" for the "heartbroken" families involved.
He added that he had met with many of the families on the issue and had also spoken to Alderman Hussey on the phone regarding the matter and had asked him "to reflect on the hurt that he has caused."
"Unfortunately, at this stage, Alderman has not done that. I would appeal to him again directly before any vote is taken to please put the thoughts and the feelings of these families before anything else and please make the right decision. Please do not put these families through any more hurt or turmoil that they are already going through," he added.
At this juncture of the meeting, an email from UUP leader, Robin Swann, sent to the council earlier that day was read by chief executive, John Kelpie.
It said that the UUP wished to replace Mr Hussey on the PCSP with party colleague, Mary Hamilton. In the communication, Mr Swann said that the reason for this was due to the politician's "increased workload" after taking on the role of Deputy Mayor as well as his other committments as a public representative.
Cllr Duffy said the correspondence from the UUP leader had compounded the hurt of families and had not taken their thoughts or feelings into consideration.
'Arrogance'
"It has not understood the reason why we are here today.. It was actually an act of arrogance that he thinks that letter can make this issue go away," she added.
Following a short recess to consider the motion, the DUP's Drew Thompson said he believed the comment that Alderman Hussey had lost the confidence of the chamber "just might not be totally correct" but reiterated that drink-driving is a serious criminal offence.
He proposed an amendment to the original motion, whereby anyone convicted of a serious offence which did or could have harmed another human being would be prevented from holding a senior position arising from elected status within the council.
Both the SDLP and Sinn Féin objected to the amendment saying it ran contrary to the Good Friday Agreement.
Independent councillor, Gary Donnelly, said he felt "very uneasy" about what was happening at the meeting.
"This conviction happened in 2016 and not a single councillor in here approached Alderman Hussey...Drink-driving is abhorrent," he said.
"It's a crime and those who indulge in it should be punished but what is happening here today is akin to almost an exercise in humiliation. There is no legal standing of what we are doing."
He said that when the UUP man was appointed Deputy Mayor several weeks ago, "the vast majority" of councillors had "clapped him into office and applauded him".
Addressing the Mayor he said: "You made a very lengthy, eloquent speech and within it you said that you had 'absolutely no doubt that Alderman Hussey would make a first class deputy'. You wished him all the best and you said: 'I can count on you'. You said he was very respectable, very open, very honest and that you had become friends.
'Unsavoury'
"How did we get two weeks ago from that position to the politicking here? I don't feel this helps victims... I think that what is happening here is unsavoury."
The amendment was put to a vote and failed by eight for, 25 against and four abstentions. The original motion proposed by Sinn Fein again became the substantive motion.
Speaking in his defence, Alderman Hussey, said he was mindful that there were family members present at the meeting who had lost their lives to drink-drivers and extended his sympathy to him.
"I respectfully say that it was not me who caused these fatalities nor indeed any fatality as a result of my actions," he said.
"My actions were wrong and I have apologised. I have been dealt with through the legal system and I have honoured all judgments delivered upon me. I trust that those with us today will accept and understand that I do not seek to cause hurt to them by my decision to retain my office as Deputy Mayor, a position afford to me by my local electorate having placed their trust in me susbstantially in my being their representative and granted to me by my party."
Alderman Hussey said it had been known since three years ago that the UUP had selected the deputy mayoral role for the final term of council and that he would be occupying the post.
'Political opportunism'
"The very fact that now, Sinn Féin have decided to seek a motion of no confidence in myself reeks of nothing else than shameful political opportunism."
He said the UUP would not be directed by Sinn Féin adding that the "heightened" media attention in recent weeks had caused "increased stress" to his family. However he said he had taken comfort from the"many hundreds" of messages of support and encouragement" he had received from across the community.
"I would stress that nowhere has anyone condoned my past actions nor would I expect them to be. What is clear is that the irony of Sinn Féin bringing such a motion is not lost on a majority of people out there.
"The sheer hypocrisy of their sudden moral dilemma is patently clear for all to see. This is a party within which it is almost a rite of passage for some to have had a past that has involved terrorist activities," Mr Hussey said.
He said he rejected the "clear hypocrisy" of Sinn Féin and concluded that next year's election would be "the real confidence vote".
Responding to Alderman Hussey, Cllr Duffy said his words showed the "greatest of arogance and greatest of misunderstanding".
The motion was subsequently put to a vote and was passed by 25 votes for with 11 abstentions and one vote against. Alderman Hussey was the single vote against.

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