THE appointment of a Dromore ward Sinn Fein councillor as an ‘independent’ member of the new Banbridge Policing and Community Safety Partnership has come in for criticism from a number of local politicians.
According to some, the appointment of Councillor Paul Gribben threatens to call into question the whole process of appointing independents to the PCSPs, successors to the formerly separate District Policing Partnerships and Community Safety Partnerships.
Among the variously ‘concerned’, ‘shocked’ and ‘astounded’ politicians to question how, given his role as a serving councillor, Mr. Gribben can serve as an independent member, are Lagan Valley MLAs Jonathan Craig and Brenda Hale - the former a member of the Policing Board, which appoints PCSP members from local authority nominations - and Dromore Councillor Paul Rankin.
Questions are being asked too as to how the relevant legislation can seemingly allow serving elected representatives to apply to the PCSPs as ‘independents’ in the first place, and how Mr. Gribben’s application apparently went without remark at the initial interview stage, when Banbridge District councillors sat on the interview panel.
Naming 32 year-old Castlewellan man Mr. Gribben as among those independent members appointed to Banbridge PCSP, the Policing board website states his occupation as ‘councillor’ and notes his declared political activity as ‘Sinn Fein Councillor in Banbridge’.
Mr. Gribben’s party, and Banbridge council, colleague, Councillor Brendan Curran, is among the 10 ‘political’ members appointed to the Banbridge PCSP; the number of councillors from each political party nominated to the PCSP depended on the parties’ electoral strength on the council.
It must be noted that of the 232 independent members appointed to the new partnerships provincewide, 96 (41 per cent) are reported by the Policing Board as having declared participation in some form of party political activity.
Other of the Banbridge PCSP’s appointed independents include members of political parties and those who canvassed for election candidates.
(MORE COVERAGE IN NEXT WEEK’S DROMORE LEADER)