THERE have been ‘no formal instances’ of ‘misogynistic or sectarian harassment’ reported to Mid & East Antrim Borough Council since it was formed four years ago.
That was the response from the council to a ‘tabled question’ lodged by Ulster Unionist councillor Stephen Nicholl.
According to the agenda for the full February meeting of the council, the question from Cllr Nicholl read: “To ask the Chief Executive to detail how many instances of misogynistic or sectarian harassment have been reported to her since the establishment of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and what action she took in each incidence.”
The agenda shows the response from the Council was: “There have been no formal instances of this nature reported to the Council since the establishment of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council in 2015.”
Recently the DUP reported Sinn Fein councillor Patrice Hardy to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards after she claimed she had been subjected to abuse.
Ms Hardy said that she was subject to “snide remarks, bullying and misogynistic comments” during meetings of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
However the DUP leader on the council Alderman Gregg McKeen had strongly rejected the allegations from Ms Hardy and said they were nothing more than “opportunistic politicking” by Councillor Hardy and Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill.
Speaking at a press conference at Stormont recently Ms O’Neill said that Ms Hardy was being subjected to regular sexist and sectarian abuse by other elected representatives.
Alderman McKeen said that he was “stunned” by the allegations and said that he felt he had no alternative than to report Councillor Hardy to the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards.
Alderman McKeen said that her comments were “damaging” to the reputation of Mid and East Antrim and that Councillor Hardy had let herself and the people of the borough down.
DUP Deputy Mayor Cheryl Johnston said that claiming “misogyny without any evidence of substance” could be damaging to young women who wish to enter politics.
“There is no doubt politics is a difficult and challenging environment to work and live in, irrespective of gender, but in this case I don’t believe there are grounds for such damaging comments,” Councillor Johnston said.
Councillor Hardy said that she had been reported for “having the audacity to highlight” her treatment.
“The constant jeering, the snide remarks, the bullying and misogynistic comments should not be tolerated and I had hoped that by speaking out, there would have at least been an acknowledgement that such behaviour is wrong,” the Belfast Telegraph reported recently.
The Sinn Fein councillor said that she had faced abuse on a “regular basis, both inside and outside the council chamber and online”.
“This abuse will not deter me from representing the people of Mid and East Antrim but it does have a personal impact on me,” Councillor Hardy said.
“It should not be happening and it should not be simply dismissed by parties who claim that Mid and East Antrim is inclusive to all.”