The Committee considered a report in relation to the introduction of a system of proportionality for the identification of candidates for consideration for the appointment to the Office of High Sheriff. The Democratic Services Manager reported that a question had been raised as to whether the Council could and should introduce a system of proportionality to identify those Parties which would be entitled to nominate a person to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for consideration for appointment as High Sheriff.
In short, the Council could decide to do this if they so wished. However, in considering whether it should do so the Committee take into account the following points.
The position of High Sheriff is not one which is within the Council’s gift. Rather, the appointment is made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who, each year, requested the Council to provide him/her with the names of three persons suitable for appointment. For many years now, the process which the Council had used to do this was for one name only to be provided and the name of that person was decided by the Council at a full Council meeting. Where more than one candidate was nominated, the Council voted and the person who received the most votes was duly nominated.
The position of High sheriff was not a “Position of Responsibility” as defined in the Local Government Act (NI) 2014 and therefore the Council was not required to use a system of proportionality to make the nominations. However, the Council could decide to use the same system as proportionality as it did for those Positions of Responsibility when deciding on whom to nominate for High Sheriff.
The Positions of Responsibility were allocated at the first annual meeting of the Council following a Local Council election for each year of the 4-year Term. The Council could decide to apply the D’hondt system to the nomination of candidates for High Sheriff as a separate pool of 4 positions. If this had been applied at the start of the current Council Term then, given the strengths of the Political parties as at the elections in 2014, the 4 choices would have fallen to:
In the past, both Sinn Fein and SDLP had not nominated anyone as a candidate for High Sheriff and, if that had continued, then the 4 Parties which would have been entitled to nominate a candidate and which would wish to avail of that choice would have been:
Of course, it would have been a matter for a political party to choose which of the 4 years it wished when it was their turn to choose.
Should the Council decide to introduce proportionality from the start of the next Council Term in 2019 then, of course, the Parties which would be eligible to nominate a candidate would be dependent upon the outcome of the Local Election.
The Council could decide to examine the Parties that have already nominated to the position so far in this Term (Alderman Rodgers – UUP in 2016 and Alderman Haire – DUP in 2017) and then to allocate the remaining two nominations in this Term to the Parties which had choices left under the D’hondt system, which would mean that the following two nominations would fall to Alliance and DUP.
Moved by Councillor Long,
Seconded by Councillor O’Neill,
That the Council is committed to equality and fairness and that Civic posts should be allocated according to electoral support and therefore the Council should use a system of proportionality. In terms of the decision of High Sheriff, the Council agrees to forward one nominee to the Secretary of State and nominations will be according to the D’hondt system, with the arrangement commencing for the remaining years of this Council Term.
Moved by Councillor Reynold,
Seconded by Alderman Rodgers,
That the Committee agrees to defer consideration of the matter for one month to enable discussions to take place on the appointment of the High Sheriff for the remainder of the Council Term and to consider a proportionality system in the next Council Term.
On a vote by show of hands six Members for the amendment and eleven against and it was declared lost.
The original proposal standing in the name of Councillor Long and seconded by Councillor O’Neil was put to the meeting when eleven Members voted for and six against and it was declared carried.