Local Election 2019

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon council election notebook: Should be 'business as usual' for unionist bloc - but interesting sub-plots

The ABC council area is home to a number of large corporates, including the Almac Group, which is headquartered in Craigavon
Gary McDonald Business Editor

FEW are anticipating the political status quo to be significantly altered in the unionist-dominated Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) council area this time around.

But there are a number of interesting sub-plots this time as the four main parties are all running fewer candidates than in 2014, while two sitting councillors are standing for different parties.

Veteran Portadown orangeman David Jones was elected last time on a Ukip ticket, edging home on the back of transfers largely from the UUP, but this time he's standing as an independent unionist.

And former Sinn Féin councillor, and the council's party group leader, Fergal Lennon is hoping to retain the seat he won last time when he runs under the banner of Aontú.

The pro-Life group was set up by former Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín after his relationship with the party soured over his refusal to accept and adhere to party policy on the issue of abortion.

The Meath TD has been successful in convincing a number of current local government councillors across the north to defect to his party, and as well as Lennon standing in the Craigavon ward, Martin Kelly will run for Aontú in Armagh.

It stands alone as an all-Ireland republican party in unequivocally adopting an anti-abortion stance, and there will be keen interest in how its two candidates fare in this first crucial electoral test, and if the party makes any in-roads into the share of Sinn Féin or the SDLP.

However, that's only a micro-issue in ABC, where the main battleground is between the DUP and UUP, who between them garnered 25 of the 41 seats last time.

In percentage terms, the UUP actually claimed the largest share in 2014 (27.2 per cent), yet had to settle for one seat less than the DUP, whose 13 seats were won with a 24.2 per cent slice of the poll.

Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP are running two fewer candidates this time, but will be expecting to hold on to their eight and six council seats respectively.

Until 2014 Alliance had traditionally held a seat in the Banbridge ward (Frank McQuaid served several terms previously and was then succeeded his late wife Sheila when he stood down due to ill health).

This time Brian Pope, a civil engineer with 30 years of experience in roads, transportation and planning, and a fierce advocate of reviving town centres, believes he can regain the seat for Alliance, possibly at the expense of Sinn Féin.

The ABC district council, born from a merger of the City and District of Armagh with Banbridge district and parts of the borough of Craigavon, covers 554 sq miles.

It's a sprawling, contrasting mix of urban industry and large rural areas, covering parts of counties Armagh and Down, taking in the upper Bann valley and much of the southern shore of Lough Neagh.

Enterprise is a key focus in this area, which is home to more than 8,000 business including the likes of Moy Park, Almac and Thompson Aero Seating.

It is seen as an increasingly important contributor to Northern Ireland’s economy, accounting for more than 11 per cent, or £3.7 billion, of total economic output, and it is the most economically active area outside Belfast.

And although it was late coming to the party, ABC recently also joined with Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and Mid-Ulster District Council to work towards a 'Growth Deal' similar to the Belfast Region City deal to boost economic growth and deliver a step change to the future prospects of the collective area.

2014 vote share:

UUP 27.2 per cent

DUP 24.2 per cent

SF 20.7 per cent

SDLP 13.8 per cent

Alliance 3.3 per cent

Others 10.7 per cent

2019 CANDIDATES

ARMAGH (6 seats)

Maeall Campbell (SDLP)

Jackie Coade (All)

Freda Donnelly (DUP)

Jackie Donnelly (SF)

Garath Keating (SF)

Martin Kelly (Aontú)

Darren McNally (SF)

Sam Nicholson (UUP)

Pol Oh-Again (Ind)

Thomas O'Hanlon (SDLP)

BANBRIDGE (7 seats)

Glenn Barr (UUP)

Ian Burns (UUP)

Seamus Doyle (SDLP)

Paul Greenfield (DUP)

Jill Macauley (UUP)

William Martin (TUV)

Vincent McAleenan (SF)

Junior McCrum (DUP)

Brian Pope (All)

Kevin Savage (SF)

CRAIGAVON (5 seats)

Kate Evans (UUP)

Sean Hagan (All)

Thomas Larkham (SDLP)

Fergal Lennon (Aontú)

Declan McAlinden (SDLP)

Catherine Nelson (SF)

Robert Woolsey Smith (DUP)

Michael Tallon (SF)

Margaret Tinsley (DUP)

Kenneth Twyble (UUP)

CUSHER (5 seats)

Paul Berry (Ind)

Paul Bowbanks (Ind)

Quincey Dougan (DUP)

Bróna Haughey (SF)

Gareth Hay (All)

Gordon Kennedy (UUP)

Seamus Livingstone (SDLP)

Jim Speers (UUP)

Gareth Wilson (DUP)

LAGAN RIVER (5 seats)

Mark Baxter (DUP)

Tony Gorrell (SF)

Tim McClelland (DUP)

Olive Mercer (UUP)

Samuel Morrison (TUV)

Sammy Ogle (Ind)

John O'Hare (SDLP)

Paul Rankin (DUP)

Kyle Savage (UUP)

Jordan Stewart (UKIP)

Eóin Tennyson (All)

LURGAN (7 seats)

Keith Haughian (SF)

Peter Lavery (All)

Liam Mackle (SF)

Noel McGeown (SF)

Sorchá McGeown (SF)

Louise McKinstry (UUP)

Terry McWilliams (DUP)

Stephen Moutray (DUP)

Joe Nelson (SDLP)

Ciarán Toman (SDLP)

PORTADOWN (6 seats)

Sydney Anderson (DUP)

Darryn Causey (DUP)

Paul Duffy (SF)

Julie Flaherty (UUP)

Darrin Foster (TUV)

Arnold Hatch (UUP)

Emma Hutchinson (All)

David Jameson (UKIP)

David Jones (Ind)

Lavelle McIlwrath (DUP)

Eamon McNeill (SDLP)

Callum Ó’Dufaigh (SF)

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