THE possibility of opening household recycling centres in Ballymena and Larne on Sundays is being considered by councillors.
Larne Alliance councillor Danny Donnelly told a meeting of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council in Ballymena on Monday night: “The people across the Borough have an equal right to be able to recycle on a Sunday”.
At the moment a recycling facility in the Carrickfergus area is currently open on the Sabbath and the Alliance Party wants the other two facilities in Ballymena and Larne to also open on Sundays.
The matter had first been discussed at a behind-closed-doors section of a committee meeting of the council in recent weeks.
Minutes of the meeting, now in the public domain, show that a report from a council official suggested closing the Carrick site on a Sunday to bring its opening hours into line with Ballymena and Larne where the gates are closed on the Sabbath.
The minutes show that DUP councillors were split on whether the Carrick site should stay open on Sundays.
Carrick DUP councillor Cheryl Johnston proposed that Carrick stays open on Sundays.
The minutes showed some councillors supported Carrick remaining open on the Sabbath and other councillors wanted all sites to close or stay closed on Sundays.
At the committee meeting, Braid Traditional Unionist Voice councillor Christopher Jamieson proposed, seconded by his party colleague from Bannside, Ald Stewart McDonald, that the Carrick recycling centre closes on Sundays.
A recorded vote showed that that proposal was defeated 9-8. Councillors voting for the Carrick site to close on Sundays were: Stewart McDonald, Matthew Armstrong, Christopher Jamieson (TUV); William McNeilly, Maureen Morrow (Ulster Unionist Party); Beth Adger, Tommy Nicholl (DUP) and James Henry (Independent).
Councillors voting for the Carrick recycling yard to stay open on Sundays were: Cheryl Johnston, Marc Collins, Angela Smyth, Julie Frew (DUP); Geradine Mulvenna, Noel Williams, Danny Donnelly (Alliance); John Stewart (Ulster Unionist Party) and James McKeown (Sinn Fein).
The minutes show Alderman Nicholl left the meeting at that stage but the reason for his departure was not given in the minutes.
The minutes go on to show that Alliance’s Danny Donnelly, seconded by DUP councillor Angela Smyth, then proposed that all three council recycling sites in the borough – Carrick, Larne and Ballymena – open on Sundays.
That proposal led to an 8-8 tie. That vote was by a show of hands and the minutes do not show who voted which way.
However, the minutes do show that with the tie, the Chair of the Committee, Ulster Unionist William McNeilly, had a casting vote and he voted against the proposal to open the gates at all three centres on a Sunday.
The minutes said: ‘In light of the resultant voting, Members were in agreement with the Director of Operations’ suggestion that the status quo remain with the situation kept under review’.
The Council minutes show that the outcome of the committee meeting was that the committee recommendation to go forward to the full Council for ratification was that the current opening hours remain the same – Sunday opening at Carrick and Sabbath closing in Ballymena and Larne.
At the full meeting of the Council in Ballymena on Monday night, the Mayor, Cllr Peter Johnston (DUP) said Cllr Danny Donnelly wished to speak about the matter.
Cllr Johnston said he had been advised by the Council Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy, that following discussion at the last group party leaders meeting it was agreed that the item should be referred back to the committee for further detail and analysis before a final decision is reached.
Cllr Donnelly told Monday’s meeting: “The people right across the Borough have an equal right to be able to recycle on a Sunday”.
He had no objections to the matter being discussed further at committee level.