Page last updated at 21:25 GMT, Monday, 3 August 2009 22:25 UK

Deal over unionist council seat

Jim Allister
Jim Allister said he looked forward to 'testing the water' in North Antrim

The DUP and Traditional Unionist Voice have agreed not to hold a by-election in Ballymoney to replace outgoing DUP member Roy Wilson.

Instead councillors accepted a proposal by the DUP to co-opt Robert Halliday into the seat.

The decision follows a week of talks between the two parties.

The deal between the two parties also means that the DUP will not seek a by-election in Craigavon, where TUV councillor Mark Russell is to resign.

Last month, Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister indicated his party would force a by-election in Ballymoney.

However, on Monday night he said a "mutually advantageous" solution had been reached.

"Mark Russell, for personal and business reasons, will shortly stand down from Craigavon Council.

"When he does, the DUP has agreed not to oppose the co-option of a TUV replacement.

"In these circumstances it was mutually advantageous to both parties to follow the course agreed and thereby the ratepayers of both Ballymoney and Craigavon can be saved expense."

He also said his party had reached an understanding with the Ulster Unionist Party about the Craigavon seat.


The TUV took almost 70,000 votes from the DUP at the European election, and Mr Allister may contest Ian Paisley's North Antrim seat in the next election.

The Dromore council by-election in February 2008 helped to build the profile of Mr Allister's hardline unionist party.

Ballymoney is in the DUP's North Antrim heartland, and Mr Allister had said he was looking forward to a similar challenge.

Mr Allister was the DUP's member of the European Parliament, but quit the party in 2007 in objection to the party power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

His party made its electoral debut in a council by-election last year - its 739 votes effectively stopped the DUP winning the seat.

In last month's European election, Mr Allister failed to hang on to his seat and DUP candidate Diane Dodds was elected.

However, the DUP's first preference vote fell to 18.2%, from 32% in 2004. It appeared most of those votes went to Mr Allister.

He has indicated that in the next general election, he will take on the DUP in the North Antrim constituency held by Ian Paisley since 1970.

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