Vacating DUP councillor among first to enact new legislation

DUP councillor Clive McFarland has become one of the first councillors in Northern Ireland to enact new legislation introduced on April 1 for vacant council seats.

The amendment to section 11 of the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962, allows the party of which the vacating councillor was a member, to select a replacement for the seat without a council or electoral vote.

The Omagh Town councillor, who has stepped down due to work and personal commitments had waited until the new measures were in place to ensure his party held onto the Omagh Town seat. The councillor told the Ulster Herald,

“I would never have stood aside if there was to be a by-election to fill my seat as it would be very unlikely a unionist candidate would win it.”

The DUP have selected Errol Thompson to take McFarland’s place, who will be named officially in the next few weeks. The ex-UDR and RIR man had previously acted as West Tyrone co-ordinator for Diane Dodds’ European election campaign last year.

The new system replaces the previous co-option one, which often instigated by-elections when one or more councillors objected. When the new measures were announced, then Minister of State Paul Goggins said they were introduced “to ensure that councils remain representative of the communities they serve throughout the term of office”. The system mirrors the current setup used in the Assembly. The European Parliament has also adopted the same approach as of April 1.

Where the vacating councillor is an independent, the NIO said,

“In the case where the seat was held by an independent councillor it can be filled from a list of substitutes provided by that member.”

The last ever council by-election took place in Castlereagh Borough Council on May 6, when Sharon Skillen beat the Alliance Party’s Jonathan Simpson by 735 votes to retain the seat left vacant by Skillen’s DUP colleague Iris Robinson. The DUP had previously failed in their attempt to co-opt Ms Skillen onto the vacant seat, prompting the by-election, held the same night as the general election. The new system was not used last week as it only applied to vacancies arising on or after April 1. Iris Robinson’s seat became vacant after her resignation in January as a result of revelations arising from a BBC Spotlight investigation.

About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

3 Responses to Vacating DUP councillor among first to enact new legislation

  1. fair_deal says:

    Incorrect – Nigel and Diane Dodds were the first to use it

  2. AldousDuke says:

    David Ford as well possibly. Although no one seems to have reported the use of the legislation in replacing them.

    The Belfast Telegraph even reported: “There is an understanding between the parties in Belfast that will allow two other DUP members to be co-opted to fill their council seats.”

    It would seem logical however that they would enact the amended legislation rather than co-opt, since their announcements came after April 1.

  3. que says:

    came across your blog in refereence to the recent elections. Noted that you will be soon sluggering a bit as well. look forward. enjoyed some of your posts below.

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