History made as ABC Council holds meeting

Members of the new ABC Council.
Members of the new ABC Council.

It was a case of the calm after the storm when the new ABC – Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon – Council met to elect its chair and committee leaders on Thursday night.

In direct contrast to the maelstrom of the final annual meeting of Craigavon Borough Council two nights earlier, the selection (under the D’Hondt System) was short, quiet and constructive.

And the outcome was that Craigavon DUP Councillor Darryn Causby – who lost out in the Craigavon Mayoral election – was installed as chair of the ABC ‘shadow’ group.

And the seven DUP members who made the new body happily posed for the first historic official picture of ABC, having refused to pose for the last Craigavon photo, with the ‘rogue’ UUP and Sinn Fein councillors who had rejected Mr Causby.

Mr Causby’s deputy chair in ABC is Sinn Fein’s Darren McNally (originally Armagh) and the two seemed happy to share power.

Thursday was all sweetness and light with chief executive Roger Wilson – going strictly by D’Hondt – calling out each party in turn to make their nominations.

DUP, being the strongest party (with 13 of the 41 members) had first choice and nominated Causby as chair. UUP were next (12 members) and they elevated Kenneth Twyble (Craigavon) to chair of Strategy and Governance. The rest was, again, according to strength, with SF having eight members, SDLP six, and one apiece for UKIP and Independent.

The full election was – chair, Darren Causby (DUP); deputy chair, Darren McNally (SF); shadow planning chair, Gemma McKenna (SF); vice chair, Gareth Wilson (DUP); Strategy and Governance chair, Ken Twyble; vice chair, Paul Rankin (DUP); Finance and Resources chair, Carla Lockhart (DUP); vice chair, Joe Nelson (SF); Services chair, Mealla Campbell (SDLP); vice chair Glenn Barr (UUP); vice chair Arnold Hatch (UUP).

Representatives of all group gave constructive speeches, welcoming a fresh era of co-operation. Carla Lockhart (DUP), who chaired the preparatory series of meetings, said that under the new powers, the council had the opportunity to drive forward regeneration and jobs creation, “which we must seize with both hands”.

Jim Speers (UUP) said that all parties within the new set-up of 41 members were minorities and all views had to be reconciled – “we must work for all communities”.

Paul Berry (Independent) said that ABC was the second largest of the 11 super councils, responsible for 200,000 people and with an annual budget of £50m – “there are large challenges ahead”.

Thomas O’Hanlon (SDLP) pointed out that three different and proud areas had been united and that democracy and impartiality were paramount – “Our party looks forward to working with you all.”

Brendan Curran (SF) - “We’re on the cusp of a new era and must work together as one entity, not three. We must give the people the best possible service”.

In accepting the post of chair, Mr Causby said he was humbled to be given such “an historic position on this highly significant occasion – we will have to get our structures and policies right. This is unknown territory and quite a challenge”.

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