A former Newtownabbey DUP councillor who was threatened with disciplinary action by the party for sipping an alcopop during a council meeting has criticised its decision to select a convicted drink-driver as one of its local government election candidates.
Robert Hill, who was dubbed ‘Bacardi Bob’ (a reference to the Bacardi Breezer he had been drinking) by party colleagues following the incident in 2013, said the party should “rethink its decision” to select councillor Thomas Hogg as a candidate for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council in May’s poll.
Mr Hogg, a former mayor of the borough, was disqualified from driving for 12 months and fined £250 after pleading guilty to driving with excess alcohol on the Crumlin Road in Belfast last April.
A breath sample showed the 30-year-old, who was awarded an MBE in 2016 for services to local government, was more than two times over the legal limit.
The Local Government Commissioner for Standards subsequently suspended him from his council duties for five months.
Current Ards and North Down DUP councillor Tom Smith tweeted that he was “disgusted” by Mr Hogg’s selection – a view shared by Mr Hill.
The former chairman of the DUP Newtownabbey branch, who blamed excessive heat in the council chamber and an absence of alternative drinks in the members’ room fridge for his indiscretion in 2013, was threatened with disciplinary proceedings by the party, which said it took “a dim view” of his actions.
“The abuse I got over a sip of Bacardi Breezer and this guy can go out and drink and then drive a car, it’s ridiculous,” Mr Hill said.
“His actions could have resulted in him killing somebody, yet he still gets selected. It just seems crazy to me.
“I think it’s wrong that he has been selected by the party. Even the government watchdog has suspended him for five months. It will be interesting to see what the people have to say about this when it comes to election time.”
Mr Hill, who quit the DUP in 2014 after the party initiated disciplinary proceedings against him for publicly criticising South Antrim MP William McCrea, is standing for Ukip in the Macedon DEA – the same area as Mr Hogg – in this year’s election.
The News Letter contacted Mr Hogg and Antrim and Newtownabbey DUP group leader Phillip Brett, but both referred us to the party’s press statement, which said: “Councillor Hogg has previously accepted his suspension and apologised for his behaviour. He has been selected by party members and we don’t intend giving a running commentary on our selection processes.”