An outspoken DUP councilor suspended by a watchdog over comments about a Sinn Féin MP is unsure whether he will run for re-election.
Marc Collins has dismissed as “bogus” suggestions that he has withdrawn from the DUP candidate selection process, but would not confirm whether he plans to stand for re-election in May.
Central and East Antrim City Council will not pursue allegations that he failed to attend an internal interview he was invited to when the party was finalizing its candidates.
A DUP spokesman said they “do not comment on internal party processes”.
In June, Mr Collins was suspended for eight months over reports on Twitter about Sinn Fein MP John Finucane in 2019 when he was a candidate for the Westminster election.
He also faces another Standards Watchdog investigation over comments on Facebook about asylum seekers in Carrickfergus.
The back-to-back inquiries have sparked speculation over whether Mr Collins will be on the DUP ticket for next year’s local council elections.
It was alleged that he had been invited to an interview as part of the DUP’s candidate admission process but did not attend, an anonymous source told The Postedia.
Mr Collins, who works for DUP MLA David Hilditch, was asked about his East Antrim constituency if the councilor had withdrawn from the party’s selection process.
In an email signed by the city council, he said: “I’m not sure who told you this information or where you got this information, but it is inaccurate.”
When asked if he would not be present for a selection interview, an email on behalf of Mr Hilditch replied: ‘Can I refer you to the DUP press office for information at this time. Thank you very much.”
In a subsequent statement by the news agency, a DUP spokesman said: “The party does not comment on internal party operations.”
Mr Collins was suspended from the council by a standards watchdog for posting a message in 2019 alleging that Mr. Finucane “supported and promoted the IRA”.
He also retweeted a post promoting a controversial banner in the Shankill area of west Belfast which referred to several members of Mr Finucane’s family.
In his comments to the watchdog, Mr Collins argued that sharing a post on Twitter via a retweet does not necessarily imply endorsement of its content.
Mr Collins also said Mr Finucane spoke at a Republican Easter commemoration in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in 2018 – a commemoration which the city council said “traditionally commemorates and celebrates the IRA”.
The acting commissioner found the Council’s Twitter activity “exceeded the acceptable limits of proper political debate” and was “unnecessary and personally offensive”.
It was also found to have “contributed to a toxic atmosphere” during an election campaign, which Mr. Finucane was led to believe that his family’s safety was “at risk”.
Mr Collins was also criticized last year for comments raising concerns that a hotel in Carrickfergus was being used by the Home Office to temporarily house some migrants.
It has since emerged that a complaint was lodged with the Council’s Standards Watchdog and the comments were referred to the investigation.
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Source: Bel Fast Live