Councillor defends drinking alcohol during meeting

Cllr Robert Hill
Cllr Robert Hill

DUP Councillor Robert Hill has defended drinking an alco-pop during a council meeting and instead hit out at his critics saying they are behind a “childish and vindictive” attempt to undermine him.

University representative Hill admitted taking a bottle of Bacardi Breezer from the members’ room fridge into the council chamber on Monday evening (June 10).

He said he took ‘a sip’ from the bottle because he needed a drink due to the heat in the council chamber.

Cllr Hill took the alco-pop into the council chamber during the monthly Environment Committee meeting, at which members of the public had packed out the gallery to observe councillors debate the issue of Dog Control Orders.

Amid the lively debate, which lasted over three hours, Councillor Billy Webb requested for the doors to be opened given the excessive heat which had built up in the chamber.

One unionist councillor, who asked not to be named, highlighted Mr Hill’s drinking to the Times saying he was “appalled and outraged” by the behaviour.

When the Times contacted Councillor Hill, his initial response was: “Sure there is more alcohol in a wine gum or a brandy ball.”

He went on: “It was all there was in the fridge, it was hot in the council chamber and I needed a drink. I took a sip from the bottle and didn’t finish it. I didn’t want to miss any of the debate in the chamber so I took the drink into the chamber with me.”

When asked why he didn’t use the watercooler provided in the chamber, Councillor Hill responded: “I had a feed of water and wanted something different and as I said there would be more alcohol in a wine gum or brandy ball and I’ve seen people drinking before during meetings.”

When asked if he’d seen people drinking alcohol before in the chamber, he replied: “All sorts, I’ve seen people drink water, coke, all sorts in the chamber.”

He added: “This is just vindictiveness on the part of the Alliance Party and its supporters because I have a free mind and will not be manipulated into voting whatever way they want me to.

“Really this is just childish and an attempt to undermine me.”

When contacted by the Times, Alliance Councillor Tom Campbell said his party had no desire to manipulate Councillor Hill’s opinion and called for the representative to make an apology.

Responding to our request for a comment, he said: “A member of the public had brought this to my attention and said he felt it was insulting.

“It seems incredible that someone, particularly an elected representative, would have been openly consuming alcohol whilst conducting council business in the presence of other councillors, journalists, council officers and the public.

“This is disrespectful if not bizarre behaviour and it reflects badly on the individual concerned. I have no objection to the consumption of alcohol but there must be limits to what is acceptable behaviour in a public working forum such as this. I would expect that he will offer an apology and explanation for his conduct if not to the council to those who elected him to office.”

A DUP spokesman added: “We would not condone such behaviour. We expect the highest standards from our elected representatives at all times.”