The DUP may have lost out on a seat at last week’s Stormont Assembly election but they will regain a seat in Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council as a consquence of that disappointment.
Sitting DUP MLA Jonathan Craig lost his Assembly seat last week after his former party colleague Jenny Palmer, who moved to the Ulster Unionist Party after a public fall out with the DUP, secured a second seat for her new party.
Mrs Palmer and her running mate Robbie Butler brought the UUP holding in Lagan Valley from zero seats to two following a hard fought campaign,
However, as soon as they were elected they were automatically stepped down from Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, leaving an opening for two councillors to be co-opted for the rest of the council term.
Although Mrs Palmer sat on Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council as an Ulster Unionist, the seat belonged to her former party as she was elected on a DUP ticket.
Therefore, whilst the UUP will select the person to fill Mr Butler’s seat, Mrs Palmer’s seat will revert to the DUP, who will choose a replacement.
This will increase the DUP share in the council to nineteen, the number of councillors originally elected.
The DUP group leader on Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Alderman James Tinsley, welcomed the fact that the party would strengthen its base on the council.
“Mrs Palmer’s council seat will return to the DUP because she was elected as a DUP Councillor,” explained Mr Tinsley.
“We will run a selection process and appoint a new councillor in due course. It will be good to bring the team back to strength and ensure proper delivery right across the council is restored.”
The selection process to co-opt the two new councillors has already begun and is expected to take three weeks to complete.
The Ulster Unionist Party have also begun their selection process to fill the seat vacated by Mr Butler.
“In practical terms, we will be stepping down from our City Council duties, and handing that baton of community responsibility to others,” explained Mr Butler. “As soon as we were confirmed as elected as MLAs, we were removed as city councillors with immediate effect. Our replacements will be co-opted.”
Mr Butler also confirmed that he will be leaving the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), where he has served for the past 16 years, to take up his post as a full-time MLA.
He added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed by time as an officer with the NIFRS and now that I have been elected an MLA and am resigning from the Fire Service, I will continue to campaign for improved conditions for all our emergency service workers as part of this Assembly mandate.”
Ulster Unionist Party Officer and Lisburn Councillor Alexander Redpath, said: “The vacancy has been advertised to members of our central candidates list. They will have the opportunity to apply and will be vigorously assessed by our party officers.
“We have a very robust process in place and I can assure you that the successful candidate will be of the very highest quality. Robbie Butler MLA will be a hard act to follow.
“Robbie was a greatly valued colleague on the Council and I will miss his support. However we have a great team on the Council and in Lagan Valley as a whole so the people of Killutagh can rest assured that they will continue to benefit from the highest quality of representation.”