THE DUP has voted for a former spokesman for the UDA to become deputy mayor of Newtownabbey, prompting accusations of self-interest because the party secured the mayor's position.
Tommy Kirkham, who was a DUP councillor between 1989 and 1993, was a representative of the UDA’s political wing, the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) until being expelled in 2007.
The loyalist, who sits on Newtownabbey Borough Council as an independent, was elected deputy mayor after receiving the backing of the DUP after the Ulster Unionists abstained.
The DUP and Mr Kirkham have a majority on the council if they vote together.
DUP Alderman Paula Bradley was elected mayor at Monday night’s meeting, having previously held the position in 2005 and been deputy mayor during the last year.
Alliance Party group leader councillor Tom Campbell condemned the DUP for “doing a deal to secure Tommy Kirkham’s vote”.
“There will be many who will view this opportunistic voting arrangement with dismay and concern,” he said.
“I suspect that the DUP will come to bitterly regret this association.
“The DUP selfishly used its majority to seek almost all positions for themselves and the remainder for other unionists.”
But DUP Alderman Nigel Hamilton said that the criticism was misplaced and pointed out that Mr Kirkham had previously been deputy mayor, on the basis of support from the Ulster Unionists, in 1999.
“Tommy was deputy mayor before my time on council, when the DUP had two members, and the UUP elevated him to the position,” he said.
The DUP man said that Mr Kirkham was now “recognised within the peace process”.
And, referring to loyalist decommissioning, he added: “It would be fair to say that organisations that Tommy has been involved in have committed to a process.”