Councilor Jim McKeever still on public payroll after conviction for child sex abuse offenses
A Northern Ireland councilor convicted of child sex abuse offenses could receive almost £4,000 from the public purse over the next three months.
Former SDLP councilor Jim McKeever was convicted last month of sexually abusing a young girl during the 1980s, when his victim was aged between seven and 14.
He was taken into custody and will be sentenced in September.
Following his conviction at Belfast Crown Court on 25 May, McKeever was expelled from the SDLP. He had already been suspended by the party when he was first charged.
However, current councilor misconduct legislation in Northern Ireland states that an elected representative cannot be removed from public office until they have been sentenced to at least three months for a criminal offence.
Therefore, the only way for McKeever, who is from Eglinton in County Derry, to be removed from the council before his sentencing in September is to step down himself.
However, to date it has not.
If he does not resign from the council, it is understood McKeever will continue to receive his council allowance, which currently stands at £15,071 a year.
The three-month payment of this stipend means the amount McKeever could receive before his sentencing in September would be £3,767.
McKeever was elected to the council in 2001 and re-elected in 2005. He did not stand in the 2011 council elections, but again won a seat for the SDLP in 2014 and retained his seat in the last election of the advice in 2019.
When contacted by the Sunday Independent last Wednesday, a council spokesman said at this point that McKeever had not resigned his seat.
The council was closed on Thursday and Friday due to bank holidays for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.
SDLP councilor Brian Tierney, who is the party’s group leader in Derry City and Strabane District Council, said McKeever was “unfit to serve or represent the people of our town”.
“It is deeply regrettable that he has not already made the decision to step down,” he added.
The court heard last month that McKeever’s victim met him through a family member.
The court also heard that McKeever and his wife fostered more than 50 children.
The Sunday Independent asked the Western Health and Social Services Trust – which is responsible for foster care in the area where he lives – if they had been contacted by any of the people who had been taken in by McKeever following his recent conviction.
In response, a spokesperson for the Trust said it was not commenting on individual cases, but added that all foster care placements had strong protection and safeguard arrangements in place.