RESPECTED councillor Philip Weir has been dumped by the Craigavon DUP for the May 5 local government elections - the second time within eight months that the local party has rejected him.
After being overlooked as David Simpson’s replacement at the NI Assembly last June, in preference to former Craigavon Mayor Sydney Anderson, he was de-selected this week as a council member.
Mr Weir has made way for Louise Templeton, the party secretary in Upper Bann, and that has prompted the former hospital doctor and current DUP adviser to fight the elections in Banbridge District Council.
It has caused one of the biggest rifts in local DUP circles in years, following the selection meeting at Mr Simpson’s office where 11 Craigavon candidates were chosen to run for the council.
Mr Weir, and his DUP colleague Robert Smith, were devastated in June when Anderson was co-opted to fill Mr Simpson’s Assembly seat, in line with DUP policy on double-jobbing. Mr Smith, who works in the local DUP office, held his counsel, but Mr Weir rankled the local party hierarchy when he made no secret of his annoyance.
The local DUP officers are refusing to comment - they will only say that the names of the 11 candidates have still to be ratified by the central party.
But a source told the Portadown Times, “The vote was taken by the Craigavon delegates. Louise Templeton put her hat in the ring and made the selection. Philip Weir lost out in the vote, in line with party democracy.”
Mr Weir works as a political adviser in the Assembly, and in consultation with party officers in Belfast he decided to try his luck in Banbridge, with a view to seeking the Assembly nomination for Upper Bann in four years time.
There is a perception in Banbridge that their area is under-represented at Stormont, with Craigavon being the power house for Upper Bann. Mr Weir refused to comment this week.
Miss Templeton will contest the Weir seat in Craigavon’s Central Area, along with the Central’s sitting councillors Woolsey Smith and Robert Smith. The Smiths and Mr Weir made it comfortably into the Civic Centre in 2005.
Meanwhile, the Portadown Times has learned that - in the four electoral areas of Craigavon - the DUP have chosen 11 to fight for seats in the Civic Centre in May.
In PORTADOWN, there are four - sitting members Gladys McCullough, Sydney Anderson and Alan Carson, the fourth hopeful being YMCA worker Darryn Causby.
In CENTRAL - sitting members Robert and Woolsey Smith with Louise Templeton.
In LURGAN - sitting members Stephen Moutray and Carla Lockhart with Donacloney man Mark Baxter.
And in LOUGHSIDE - Philip Carson, brother of Councillor Alan Carson.
The DUP had nine elected in 2005, and since then Carla Lockhart was co-opted to replace the late Fergie Dawson in Lurgan, Gladys McCullough replaced David Simpson (Portadown) who quit the council, and Mark Russell (Lurgan) moved from DUP to TUV, then resigned from the Civic Centre, after which Craigavon’s last by-election was won by the UUP’s Jo-Anne Dobson. The DUP did not contest the by-election which was in January last year. The party currently has eight councillors in Craigavon. Text us your views to 84555, starting your message with PTTEXT and then a space.