A Councillor has hit out at colleagues on her local body for ‘treating her like a child’ and says she has contemplated walking away from public service despite taking her seat just six months ago.
Independent member Roma McAfee got the nod for the seat made vacant when her husband Iain - who polled the second highest number of first preference votes in the town at the May elections - was disqualified over an alleged breach of electoral law, for which he has since been cleared.
She said she was anxious to voice the concerns of people in the Ballymoney borough “without the shackles of party politics” but has become disillusioned with the workings of the council in that time.
She claimed she has been patronised during debates.
“Since I took over Iain’s seat in October I’ve attempted to take the time to find my feet and get to know the functions of the council,” said Cllr McAfee.
“One thing that I now really appreciate is the efforts of the council officers and workers who provide services to the community, sometimes in very trying circumstances.
“Any thoughts that as a new member I would receive any respect from all my fellow councillors however have been shattered some time ago.
“I entered the Chamber eager to learn and play a role in making Ballymoney a better place to live. I agreed to take Iain’s seat as I shared his vision and that there needed to be an independent voice free from the shackles of party politics.
“To be honest though had it not be for the continued support and encouragement of ordinary people why I meet on a daily basis I would have walked away already.
“It has been extremely frustrating to put forward reasonable suggestions and justifiable concerns only to be spoken to like a child. My raising of the views of local business people and ratepayers to the excessive donation to the Milk Cup.
“Surely value for money is not much to ask for.
“Also my support for the Compass Shadow Council has faced particular opposition.
“As I said I am new and am keen to learn. What motivation or message does this send out or give to a new councillor like myself?”
Cllr McAfee said she was particularly aggrieved at the handling of the council’s budget for the upcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
“I know John Finlay (DUP) was having a swipe at myself when he raised the money set aside for the Queen’s Jubilee,” she said.
“I’m not embarrassed to say that I abstained during the vote.
“Not because I disagreed with the communities receiving funding to celebrate the event. In fact I enquired about the possibility of funding several weeks before on behalf of a local community group.
“What I could not agree with is how £1,000 was slipped in to pay for two tables at the County Antrim dinner. No right minded public representative should be spending ratepayers’ money to stuff their face but this is what was agreed. If anyone really wants to attend this dinner then let them pay the £50 for themselves.”
Cllr McAfee concluded: “Iain was elected with the second highest number of first preference votes in the town so a lot of people agreed with what he stood for and what I now stand for.
“For that reason alone and the fact that I share the concerns of the people of Ballymoney for the future of the area, I will continue to be an independent voice on the council uncorrupted by party politics.”
Recently, Iain McAfee was informed the Public Prosecution Service was not pursuing any legal action against him regarding his alleged breach of electoral law.