Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein seek legal advice over Craigavon mayor row

Sinn Fein is seeking legal advice after Craigavon Borough Council failed to elect one of the party's councillors as mayor, despite getting the most votes.

Mairead O'Dowd received 11 votes at a council meeting on Wednesday, while the DUP's Carla Lockhart got 10 votes and UUP candidate Arnold Hatch three.

The council decided to eliminate Mr Hatch and hold a second vote, which Sinn Fein refused to take part in.

Sinn Fein councillor Johnny McGibbon said there was a "Craigavon timewarp".

Mr McGibbon said his party had suggested choosing the new mayor using the d'Hondt mechanism , as used at Stormont, but this was declined.

"We refused to participate in the second vote as it seemed to be a re-run of the election because a Sinn Fein candidate happened to have the most votes," he said.

Mr McGibbon said the situation was ridiculous, as two of the DUP councillors are also assembly members and implement d'Hondt arrangements.

"We have a close working relationship throughout the year, there's lots of common ground and I can't remember a bad word between us," he said.

"To say relationships are strained or that Sinn Fein is not ready for a senior position is excuse-making, arrogant and doesn't respect the mandate of the nationalist community who voted for us."

Stephen Moutray, leader of the DUP group on the council, said: "Councillors did not have a role in the mechanics of the elections. This was a matter for the chief executive and council officials.

"Their decision was made after looking at precedent in Craigavon Council, precedent in Belfast City Council and taking legal advice.

"I wish councillor Lockhart well in her year as mayor. She will be a mayor for everyone and will give excellent leadership across the borough."

Craigavon has elected three non-unionist mayors since 1973, none of them from Sinn Fein.

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