McAfee heartened by public’s response

THE Ballymoney councillor embroiled in an eligibility investigation says he has been overwhelmed by the public’s response to his plight.

A fortnight ago the Times revealed an investigation is under way into claims Independent member Iain McAfee has breached electoral law.

The allegation is that he breached electoral law by standing for Ballymoney Council whilst being employed by another council.

Cllr McAfee swept in to Riada House after the May 5 election and in the process long-standing Ulster Unionist councillor James Simpson lost his seat.

Cllr McAfee came second in the count of first preference votes in Ballymoney, securing 347 behind runaway leader Mervyn Storey of the DUP.

Speaking to the Times on Friday, Cllr McAfee - who is adamant he was unaware of the legislation apparently preventing him from taking up council office at present - said there had been no further developments to date.

“Nothing has changed and I have been told it could take some time,” he said.

“It’s hard and it has been hard on myself and my family.

“I’m very much in a state of limbo.”

Cllr McAfee has been continuing to work on the ground in Ballymoney since questions were raised regarding his eligibility for the role.

Until the investigation is complete he says he is still a councillor but in the meantime he will not be taking part in any council business and has returned any allowances.

He said he has been taken aback by the wave of support he has received in recent weeks.

“I have been getting phone calls from all over the country,” he said.

“People have been really, really supportive and I saw all the letters in the paper last week which was very heartening.”

Ballymoney Council Chief Executive John Dempsey, who acted as Deputy Returning Officer during the May 5 local government election, said: “The matter is being investigated and while it is under investigation I will not be making any comment.”