A former MP has dismissed concerns regarding a potential conflict of interest over a DUP councillor who took a trip paid for by Belfast International Airport.
Philip Brett, who sits on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s planning committee, travelled to watch a Cricket World Cup match on May 30 as part of the trip paid for by the airport.
Concerns were raised as the short break came just weeks after Mr Brett proposed to accept a recommendation by council planners to refuse permission for an extension to a family-owned car park close to the airport.
The DUP man, whose 18-year-old brother was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 2001, works in the office of North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds.
The Irish News reported that – as detailed in the council’s Hospitality and Gifts Register for elected members – Mr Brett received tickets for a cricket match, return flights, a two-night hotel stay and “associated hospitality” valued at £2,000 in total.
The News Letter was unable to reach Mr Brett. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part.
Another councillor, former UUP South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan, also went on the trip.
He was elected to the council in May after the planning committee vote had taken place.
He told the News Letter yesterday: “As long as you declare your interest and there is no conflict, you are fine. I have declared mine and I am certain Mr Brett has declared his. I don’t think there is anything in this at all. It is a non-story.”
It is not known when the trip was organised, and the DUP declined to clarify any details.
However, the party stated: “Councillor Brett has complied fully with the requirements of registering hospitality.”
The planning application in question, discussed at a committee meeting in April, included a change of use from farm buildings and yard to provide an extension of existing commercial car parking for airport users.
Planners said the applicant had not demonstrated “that there is a need for the facility nor has any need been identified in any published transport plan”.