DUP welcomes two new councillors in Newry, Mourne and Down
Two unionist councillors in Newry, Mourne and Down have joined the DUP.
Alan Lewis has defected from the Ulster Unionists while Henry Reilly has previously been a member of the UUP, Ukip and the TUV, but recently sat as an independent.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was delighted to welcome the two new members to his team on the council.
He said: “They join many other new members who are now part of a vibrant and growing party within South Down.
“I have known Henry over many years and he has always been a dedicated representative, focused on delivering for the people of the Mournes, and dedicated to strengthening our place within the United Kingdom.
“Since his election in 2019 Alan has also been a fearless and hardworking representative, focused on uniting and strengthening unionism within South Down.
“I want to see a stronger and more cohesive unionism, working to strengthen our place within the union.
“There is a unity of purpose within unionism in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and, as leader of the DUP, I will do everything in my power to build upon that.”
Mr Lewis said: “The people I represent want to see greater unionist unity.
“There were more than 12,500 unionist votes cast at the last Assembly election in South Down and I believe this can be further built upon through a strong DUP team which I am looking forward to being part of.”
Mr Reilly said “I look forward to being part of that strong DUP team, not just in South Down, but across Northern Ireland.”
The South Down area had previously been troublesome for the DUP, with deep divisions and public resignations.
During the Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign earlier this year, members of the DUP South Down association resigned to back a candidate with the rival TUV.
The party's former MLA for the area, Jim Wells, also resigned his membership and said he would not support the DUP candidate Diane Forsythe.
Despite this, Ms Forsythe retained the seat for the DUP.
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he was disappointed to be losing Mr Lewis from the party but wished him well.
He told the BBC: "I'm disappointed Alan Lewis has decided to leave the Ulster Unionist Party.
"He was a much-valued councillor and friend, but that's politics.
"We will look for a replacement to fight the Slieve Croob DEA in the forthcoming council elections.
"In the meantime, we wish Alan well."