CRAIGAVON Council’s solicitor was called to the Civic Centre on Wednesday night to sort out the Mayoral election mayhem as Carla Lockhart became the borough’s fifth DUP Mayor in the past six years.
Sinn Fein, who have never held the positions of Mayor or Deputy, insisted their candidate Mairead O’Dowd should be ‘crowned’ after leading in the first round of voting - 11 votes against 10 for Lockhart and three for the UUP’s Arnold Hatch, who was later made Deputy Mayor.
Sinn Fein group leader Johnny McGibbon and colleague Gemma McKenna, who are believed to be taking legal advice, insisted it should be first past the post. However, the DUP claimed Mr Hatch should drop out and there should be a second vote according to the ‘custom and practice’ procedure.
Chief executive Dr Theresa Donaldson scoured the council archives, studied how Belfast City Council acted, and consulted the local government legal ‘bible’, the Knowles publication.
Sinn Fein refused to accept her ruling that ‘custom and practice’ was the way forward. Mr McGibbon commented, “There have only been two nationalist Mayors in the 40-year history of this council, both SDLP.”
The meeting was adjourned for 75 minutes while solicitor Brian Walker was summoned and he found in favour of the two-horse race. This led to acrimonious exchanges between the DUP and SF.
Sinn Fein refused to take part in the second vote, which saw Lockhart elected. And they refused to stand as she re-entered the chamber as the new Mayor.
To round off the proceedings, DUP members refused to pose for the ‘official’ photograph, which included SF, UUP, SDLP and Alliance members - but without the new Mayor and her DUP colleagues.
The council earlier rejected a Sinn Fein motion calling for the D’Hondt method of sharing the top posts.
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