‘Aim was to stop SDLP/SF double’

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In a later statement, the council’s DUP grouping said it had carefully considered all of the options, sought legal advice and consulted with members of the Banbridge Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist group, before arriving at a position at last Friday’s Council AGM.

“The DUP decision to support the SDLP’s Cllr Seamus Doyle for the Chair was an extremely difficult one for the DUP,” they said, “but one taken looking at the bigger picture for unionism.”

They were determined, they said, to prevent the SDLP and Sein Fein holding both of the top posts in the same year but that was now the prospect fa cing unionists in the last year of the council.

“DUP councillors can point back to last Friday’s AGM and say that we did our best to try and ensure that wouldn’t become a reality,” they said. “We believe unionist voters will understand the DUP rationale.

We hold nothing personal against Councillorr Mercer and would wish her well for the incoming year,” they added, paying tribute to the outgoing chairman Cllr Junior McCrum and Vice-chair, Cllr Elizabeth Ingram.