All political parties – be they right, left or centre – are fighting a middle-of-the-road election campaign in Killicomaine estate. So much so that many of them have agreed not even to erect a poster in one of the most strange anomalies in local government history.
For the boundary between the Portadown Electoral Area and that of neighbouring Craigavon runs right up the centre of Festival Road (within the cumbersome ABC super-council area) and candidates are having their work cut out to explain the anomaly to residents.
During the years of Craigavon Borough Council (1973 until its final curtain next year) the Craigavon Area has stretched from the River Bann in Portadown to the southern environs of Lurgan. But all that has been changed with Craigavon joining with Armagh and Banbridge as the number of councils shrink from 26 to 11.
So, in order to declare an amnesty between the usual feuding unionist factions, Arnold Hatch (UUP, Portadown) and Robert Smith (DUP, Craigavon) paid a visit to explain the border issues. Both, incidentally, were elected to those respective DEA (District Electoral Areas, or DEAs) in the past series of elections when they were part of Craigavon Borough Council.
The changes mean that Portadown DEA stretches all the way to Loughgall and includes the wards of Ballybay, Birches, Corcrain, Killicomaine, Mahon and Loughgall. Six seats and 13 candidates. Stand on Festival Road facing the Killicomaine Road, and the Portadown DEA is to your left.
But on the right is Craigavon, where the 12 candidates are chasing five seats in the massive DEA – the wards are Bleary, Brownlow, Central, Derrytrasna and Kernan.
Said Arnold Hatch, “It’s the height of nonsense. Neighbours across the road are in different DEAs and there’s confusion. But Robert and I (and no doubt other candidates) are handing out lists and assuring the people that they vote in their usual polling booth (in this case Edenderry Primary School) and they’ll be sent to the appropriate rooms.
Said Robert Smith, “It isn’t so bad for me as I’m still in the Craigavon ward. But there are anomalies all over the place, with nearby Princess Way also divided and borders across fields. Obviously, the powers-that-be don’t know the constituency, but we’re stuck with it.”
Kenneth McClatchey remains in Craigavon, but didn’t know that Festival Road was “a house divided”. “Surely, they could have drawn the borders better than this,” he said. “The old way, divided across the Bann, seemed much easier.”
And Mrs Evelyn Osborne – “I’m in my 90s and have never missed voting” – said she didn’t realise the change of DEA. “It seems so stupid I’ll be voting for different candidates than people across the road,” she said. “But I’ve got a list and things have been explained. I’ve arranged for my daughter to take me to the poll.”
Candidates Hatch and Smith arrived with their respective posters, but agreed that, in order not to spread confusion, they would erect them elsewhere.
In fact, only one poster was in place in Festival Road – that of David Jones (UKIP) with his party not contesting in Craigavon. He said, “It’s just plain daft to divide a street. But nothing surprises me in politics.”
Portadown candidates :
Doug Beattie (UUP), Jonathan Buckley (DUP), Darrin Causby (DUP), Paul Coleman (TUV), Paul Duffy (SF), Pete Giffin (All), Arnold Hatch (UUP), David Jones (UKIP), Gemma McKenna (SF), Eamon McNeill (SDLP), Terry McWilliams (DUP), Kyle Spence (NI21), John Stevenson (PUP).
The Craigavon candidates:
(in their parties) are – Kieran Corr (Ind); Sinn Fein – Fergal Lennon, Vincent McAleenan, Tommy O’Connor. DUP – Robert Smith, Margaret Tinsley. UUP – Kenneth Twyble, Julie Flaherty. SDLP – T.P. Larkham, Declan McAlinden. Alliance – John Cleland. PUP – Brian Cummings.