£390k paid out after twenty five councillors bow out: DoE

Derry Guildhall is the seat of Derry City Council.
Derry Guildhall is the seat of Derry City Council.
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Twenty-five long-serving local Councillors - including three Derry representatives who stood down between August 2013 and March 2014 - collectively received £390,000 in severance payments.

The Councillors, who had all served at least twelve years on their respective authorities, applied for severance in advance of the elections to the new supercouncils earlier this year.

The Department of the Environment (DoE) revealed details of the severance payments in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Locally Sinn Féin’s former Waterside Councillor Lynn Fleming was the first to announce she was stepping down in September 2013. She received a severance payment of £10,000.

Soon afterwards two of the SDLP’s longest serving Councillors, John Tierney and Shaun Gallagher followed suit, receiving severance payments of £20,600 and £18,600 respectively.

In neighbouring Limavady, meanwhile, the long-standing DUP Alderman George Robinson also stood down. He received a severance payment of £16,600.

The largest payment made to any Councillor for long service was that made to the late Shankill-based Councillor Hugh Smyth of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) who stood down from Belfast City Council in January 2014 due to ill health.

Mr Smyth passed away in May. He received £34,600. This was the largest amount paid to any Councillor across the whole of Northern Ireland.

The next highest payment was made to the former SDLP Down District Councillor, Eamon O’Neill, who received £27,600. He was closely followed by his party colleague Robert Louhgran who stood down from Antrim Borough Council and received £26,000.

Several well-known political figures outside their respective parishes were also amongst those to have availed of the voluntary severance scheme.

These included the former Alliance Party leader Sean Neeson who got £17,800 when he stood down from Carrickfergus Borough Council.

Another Alliance Councillor, the sitting MLA Kieran McCarthy, got £13,000 when he stood down from Ards Borough Council.

Meanwhile, DUP MLAs Maurice Morrow (£22,000) and Gordon Dunne (£20,800) also received severance payments when they stood down from local office.

Senior Sinn Féin figure Tom Hartley was also amongst those listed. He received £14,000 upon stepping down from Belfast City Council.