Correct protocol was not followed over the disposal of an abandoned trawler from Carrick harbour, a local councillor has claimed.
The capsized trawler ‘Southards’ was removed from the harbour earlier this year after having lain at the slipway for several months.
However, concerns were raised over the nature of the boat’s removal after the Northern Ireland Environment Agency confirmed it was investigating claims that the vessel was illegally disposed of.
The Agency had previously advised council that any abandoned boats should be taken to a site with an appropriate waste management licence for dismantling in compliance with environmental legislation, with a “detailed plan of work covering all stages of the operation” required to ensure protection of the environment.
Meanwhile, Carrickfergus Borough Council indicated that a separate external investigation is also being conducted into the disposal of the trawler.
The move followed a meeting of the Maritime sub-committee on March 20, where it was reported that the boat had sunk en route to Scotland after being removed from the harbour.
During a session of the Development Services Committee on Monday evening, councillors Jim Brown, Noel Williams, Gavin Norris, Isobel Day and John Stewart proposed an open discussion of the minutes from the March meeting.
However, the proposal was overruled by seven members of the DUP bloc on the council, who voted to discuss the matter ‘in committee’.
Expressing concern over how the investigation was being dealt with, Alderman Jim Brown said: “This matter was raised initially at a Maritime sub-committee meeting in March and it is only now in June that it is coming before us as a council.
“There are serious issues surrounding governance and protocol that need to be addressed here and it appears that the DUP closed ranks.
“I will be raising this with the Local Government Auditor at the next Corporate Governance meeting; the proper protocol was not followed in relation to the removal of this vessel. As elected representatives we are decision makers; it is not up to us to individually manage.”
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Noel Williams said he was ‘disappointed’ that the matter had not been dealt with in an open manner. “Ratepayers have the right to know about the circumstances behind the disappearance of the boat,” he added.
However, Alderman Charlie Johnston drew attention to the ongoing investigation surrounding Southards’ disposal. “The DUP did not close ranks; majority rule must be accepted and we do not have the full details on this matter yet,” he said. “We will be calling for it to be dealt with as soon as possible and there will be a special meeting of the Maritime sub-committee within the next few weeks.”