Independent councillors and Ulster Unionists have claimed they are being discriminated against because the D’Hondt system is not being applied fairly in the allocation of positions on committees on Derry City and Strabane District Council.
At a meeting of Derry City Council on Thursday afternoon independent councillor Gary Donnelly said the system heavily affected 15% of the council chamber and called for members to rectify the position.
Derek Hussey of the Ulster Unionist party said that of the 202 positions available in council 48% of those had been given to a party with 40% of the vote and 28% of positions given to a party with 25% of the vote.
“That’s 76% of positions allocated to the two biggest parties,” he said. “There must a proportionality,” he said. “We have been denied D’Hondt by what has happened.”
SDLP councillor Gerard Diver said this was democracy in action
“We had a proposal for D’Hondt on March 12 and that should be applied to committees. This is the democratic will of the council. There’s strength in being part of a political party and being together gives you strength.”
Gary Donnelly said that when it came to implementing D’Hondt at committee stage, it was taken committee by committee which meant that it unfairly squeezed out smaller parties.
“It was never getting as far as the smaller parties like the Ulster Unionists or Independents,” he said.
“To me it is a form of discrimination. I had hoped to come here today and find out it was a mistake. But I’ve found out it is deliberate discrimination. My understanding is that if there is a community group offering council five positions it is so there will be a cross section of elected representatives from the city.
“But this not the way it is being done. The Ulster Unionists and Independents are being excluded
“Councillors had the opportunity to refuse to discriminate against thousands of voters, voters who have been alienated and marginalised.”
Independent councillor Dee Quigley said the system was unfair when you consider the thousand of votes that were cast for independents.
“This is selective discrimination,” he said, “a move away from the original D’hondt system. They are not doing what it said on the tin. Our voters are not being represented on certain committees and boards. We feel we are being treated unfairly and in a discriminatory way. This will have serious implications.”
Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey said that what effectively has happened is that those people who voted for him are being disenfranchised.
“And I can’t understand why,” he said.
“When we dealt with D’Hondt in the AGM it was dealt with properly and in good form and produced an equity of representation across the chamber,
“The same system as I understood it was the system that would then transfer to the selection of the various positions to be selected by the committees, in fact I proposed that we would select positions within the committees on the assumption that the system of D’hondt would be the same that had already been used where the bigger parties pick first but down the line the smaller parties and independents have their choice That’s why D’hondt was devised.”
Colr. Hussey said it was incredibly frustrating.
“If people could just look at thing and what the outcome has been.”
Sinn Fein’s Karina Carlin said she resented any insinuations that the process was not carried out properly and lawfully.
“It was in spirit of D’Hondt,” she said,