After several months of deliberations and controversy, it turned out as easy as ‘ABC’ when the new super-council agreed on Thursday night on its new name – ‘Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council’.
But whether or not the council can retain its Lord Mayor status – granted to Armagh in 2012 – has not yet been clarified, with the switch-over date from the three existing councils set at April 1.
Said veteran council member Jim Speers, “I am confident the Lord Mayor title will be simply a matter of form. The decision lies between the Northern Ireland Office and the Westminster Cabinet and they have, so far, failed to respond to our requests. “But I can’t see it being rejected.”
There have been four Armagh Lord Mayors – Freda Donnelly (DUP) at the end of her 2011-11 term, followed by Sharon Haughey (SDLP), Robert Turner (UUP) and the current incumbent, Sinn Fein’s Cathy Rafferty. Meanwhile, all obstacles to the new name were removed on Thursday night when SDLP agreed to abandon their campaign to keep ‘Craigavon’ out of the title.
Joe Nelson had argued that Lord Craigavon (Northern Ireland’s first Prime Minister) was not an appropriate figure and that Craigavon Borough Council’s history was pitted with sectarianism. But the objection was dropped.
Mr Speers added, “I congratulate the SDLP on their ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion - they actually proposed the name of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon.
Sinn Fein were co-operative all along and a unanimous consensus was reached.”
Independent Unionist Paul Berry said, “I was glad that common sense prevailed and I would commend fellow councillors for withdrawing their two proposals from across the political divide. It is now time to get our branding done and get down to the real business of delivering for the ratepayers.”
Chairman of the shadow council, Darryn Causby said, “The DUP were the only party that originally wanted all three names retained and we’re delighted. Now that the name is agreed, the real work must begin on keeping rates low and providing the highest quality service possible. I am delighted the name Lord Craigavon will live on.”