Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon: Life won’t be as easy as ABCs

Banbridge Civic Buildings, Banbridge District Council.
Banbridge Civic Buildings, Banbridge District Council.

The chances are that life in the new ‘ABC’ (Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon) super-council won’t be quite as easy as, well, your ABCs.

The three existing councils are a disparate lot, facing a sort of shotgun marriage.

The Craigavon Borough Council chamber has the reputation of being something of a bear pit, with fierce orange-green divisions; Armagh City Council lives in peace and tranquillity; and Banbridge District Council is sort of in-between.

Not for Craigavon the D’Hondt mechanism of selecting mayors.

There have been just two SDLP first citizens in its 41-year history (none of the Sinn Fein ilk), both elevated at the turn of the millennium.

The honour was seized by the Ulster Unionists for the first 25 years when they were the strongest party.

And since that brief SDLP interlude, the main choice has been DUP, now the strongest group.

The make-up of the 26 members is nine DUP, eight SF, six UUP, two SDLP and one Alliance.

Armagh has a Lord Mayor (an honour bestowed in 2011), the first being Freda Donnelly (DUP), followed by Sharon Haughey (SDLP) to the present incumbent Robert Turner (UUP).

Sinn Fein will make their choice next month, providing the final Lord Mayor, before ABC takes over in 2015.

The ratio of the 22 members is six UUP, six SF, five SDLP, four DUP and one Independent unionist.

Banbridge isn’t quite so addicted to D’Hondt, but shares power after a fashion, with Sinn Fein and Alliance thus far left out of the chairperson loop.

The new ABC council will be compelled by law to follow the diktats of D’Hondt, based on each party’s strength within the sprawling area, the biggest super-council in Northern Ireland outside Belfast.

The 17 Banbridge councillors are: seven UUP, five DUP, two SF, two SDLP and one Alliance.

The new council area stretches from Lough Neagh to the border.

The combined current total of 65 councillors will be cut to 41, quite a reduction for the 201,000 residents.

The initial estimates suggest 26 unionist-minded councillors and 15 nationalist/republican.

Within that span, it is thought that the UUP-DUP split, and that of SDLP-SF, could be wafer-thin.

ABC meanders from hard-line Craigavon, through the verdant Orchard Country, taking in the Cathedral City of Armagh, across to sleepy Charlemont, and including Banbridge town in the County Down, with its moderate unionist tradition.

Freda Donnelly is “hopeful” that the Armagh template will be followed.

D’Hondt is a given, but the flags issue is in a state of flux.

She said, “We’re a ‘hung’ council and it pays to care and share. On the flags issue, we strictly follow the ‘designated days’ ethos.”

But there could be trouble ahead in the flags respect.

Banbridge flies the Union Flag 24/7 from its Civic Centre after going through a Equality Impact Assessment.

Long-serving John Hanna (UUP), who isn’t contesting this time, said: “We do things by the book, and there have been no problems.”

Easy, perhaps, within a strong unionist majority.

But Craigavon, which also follows the designated days format, is casting covetous eyes Banbridge’s way, and has applied for an Equality Impact Assessment.

The DUP’s Carla Lockhart, the main advocate, said: “The rest of the council let our party down in 2002 by settling on designated days, and DUP are determined to change that to 365 days in the Civic Centre and in Portadown and Lurgan town centres.”

The SDLP’s Joe Nelson (also Craigavon) said: “That could be a warning sign for Armagh which has lived so long in peace and harmony.

“Craigavon is a divided council and I won’t lose any sleep on its demise.”

You candidates:


Mealla Ellen Campbell (SDLP)

Freda Donnelly (DUP)

Garath Keating (SF)

Darren McNally (SF)

Sam Nicholson (UUP)

Thomas O’Hanlon (SDLP)

Joy Rollston (UUP)

Adam Watt (UKIP)

Gerard Paul White (SF)

Mohammed Zahid (Alliance)


Glenn Barr (UUP)

Ian Burns (UUP)

Brendan Patrick Curran (SF)

Seamus Doyle (SDLP)

Paul Greenfield (DUP)

Marie Hamilton (SDLP)

Emma Hutchinson (NI21)

Elizabeth Ingram (UUP)

Junior McCrum (DUP)

Sheila Mary McQuaid (Alliance)

Kevin Jude Savage (SF)

Ian McMaster Wilson (DUP)


Kieran Peter Corr (Independent)

John Cleland (Alliance)

Brian Cummings (PUP)

Julie Flaherty (UUP)

Thomas Patrick Larkham (SDLP)

Fergal Thomas Lennon (SF)

Vincent Joseph Edward McAleenan (SF)

Declan McAlinden (SDLP)

Tommy O’Connor (SF)

Robert Woolsey Smith (DUP)

Margaret Tinsley (DUP)

James Kenneth Twyble (UUP)


Paul Berry (no party given)

Mary Elizabeth Doyle (SF)

Sharon Haughey (SDLP)

Gordon Kennedy (UUP)

Tim McClelland (DUP)

Jim Speers (UUP)

Gareth Wilson (DUP)


Mark Baxter (DUP)

Carol Black (UUP)

Keara Elizabeth Downey (SF)

Hazel Gamble (DUP)

Harry Hamilton (Alliance)

Neville Hutchinson (NI21)

Maureen Litter (SDLP)

Frazer Carson McCammond (Democracy First)

Olive Mercer (UUP)

Samuel Morrison (TUV)

Paul David Rankin (DUP)

Marc Woods (UUP)


Maire Cairns (SF)

Aaron Carson (UUP)

Lexi Davidson (PUP)

Roy Ferguson (TUV)

Keith William Haughian (SF)

Jonny Johns (UKIP)

Peter Lavery (Alliance)

Carla Lockhart (DUP)

Liam Mackle (SF)

Stuart McClelland (NI21)

Colin McCusker (UUP)

Pat McDade (SDLP)

Noel Francis McGeown (SF)

Philip Moutray (DUP)

Joe Nelson (SDLP)

Anna Ochal-Molenda (SDLP)

Catherine Seeley (SF)


Doug Beattie (UUP)

Jonathan Buckley (DUP)

Darryn Causby (DUP)

Paul Coleman (TUV)

Paul Anthony Duffy (SF)

Pete Giffen (Alliance)

Arnold Hatch (UUP)

Robert David Jones (UKIP)

Gemma Catherine McKenna (SF)

Eamon McNeill (SDLP)

Terry McWilliams (DUP)

Kyle Thomas Spence (NI21)

John Stevenson (PUP)