THE sole unionist who voted at last week’s annual Craigavon council meeting in favour of the d’Hondt mechanism that shares out the top posts, has rounded on DUP for “the intransigence” that saw the party elect its fifth mayor in six years - Councillor Carla Lockhart.
Councillor Ronnie Harkness (UUP) insisted that the policy flew in the face of actions by other local councils and by the NI Assembly. He claimed it had cost Craigavon city status on two occasions, and that the borough would probably lose out on being the administrative centre of the ‘super council’, when Craigavon joins with Banbridge and Armagh in 2015.
Mr Harkness added it was ironic that the casting vote of out-going Mayor Alan Carson had decided the issue, which was locked at 12-12, “when you consider that Councillor Errol Thompson - a DUP colleague of Councillor Carson’s father-in-law Charlie Chittick - was made the first DUP chairman of Sinn Fein controlled Omagh District Council”.
He continued, “I have advocated over these past four years that I cannot accept that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor should come from the two unionist camps. I supported the introduction of the d’Hondt system in Craigavon, in order that the main posts are shared among all five parties. The two-strand approach adopted by Alderman Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson needs to be explained.
“Up at Stormont, the DUP in tandem with Sinn Fein, has accepted the recommendations for the change in local government.
“Furthermore the DUP having agreed to a Conflict Resolution Centre being built at the Maze is tantamount to a shrine in memory of IRA terrorists. Millions of pounds of ratepayers money has been wasted when in fact the site should have accommodated a national football stadium for Northern Ireland.”
He added that DUP’s William Hay, chairman of the NI Assembly Commission, had announced an agreed approach to commemorate The Easter Rising of 1916. However, this attitude did not apply to Craigavon barely 40 minutes down the road, Mr Harkness claimed.
“It must be the change of air in County Armagh that alters the ‘let’s share everything’ approach at Stormont to the old DUP mantra of ‘never, never, never, never’ in Craigavon,” he went on.
“First Minister Peter Robinson is in the media on a daily basis with Mr McGuinness (and we all know about his terrorist past) while local DUP councillors fail to participate in the annual council official photograph. They are ensconced in a time warp.
“Derry City Council has this past year been served admirably by Alderman Maurice Devenney of the DUP, a person for whom I have a very high regard. And Ballymena, for years deemed to be a loyalist hard-line council, has appointed a nationalist Mayor for the first time.”