Final proposals for councils are published

THE final recommendations for the new District Electoral Areas under the so-called ’supercouncils’ have been published by the commissioner, Richard H Mackenzie.

The report has been presented to the Secretary of State who has laid it before Parliament.

Under the new council boundaries, Banbridge will be joined with Craigavon and Armagh to form a new council.

Following representations from local politicians and the public - including a petition - the Commissioner agreed to transfer the Gransha and Gilford wards.

Banbridge District Council had written to the Commissioner, informing him that responses on the issue would be sent by political parties rather than the council as a corporate body.

In responding to concerns expressed by the parties, the Commissioner said: “The Ulster Unionist Party expressed its concern that the ward electoral averages were not evenly spread across all councils and asked for the matter to be reviewed. However, this is an issue which is outside my remit as Commissioner.

“The SDLP proposed the exchange of the Gransha ward (from the Banbridge DEA) with the Gilford ward (from the Lagan River DEA) on the basis of local ties.

“The SDLP proposal was supported by a valid petition from the localities of Banbridge, Gransha, Gilford and Lawrencetown.

“The Alliance Party expressed itself as broadly content with the recommendations and the Upper Bann branch of Sinn Féin considered the Provisional Recommendations to be relatively balanced and fair but proposed that, on historical grounds, the Lagan River DEA should be called Clann Bhreasail or Clanbrass.

“Michael Moriarty proposed the exchange of the Gransha ward (from the Banbridge DEA) with the Gilford ward (from the Lagan River DEA) on the basis of local ties and in order to preserve the former Knockiveagh DEA.”

At an inquiry into the proposals, Edward Hanna spoke on behalf of Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson and Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale, who wished to see Gransha ward transferred from Banbridge DEA to Lagan River DEA on grounds of local ties.

Brendan Curran, representing Sinn Féin, supported the Provisional Recommendations of the Commissioner in relation to this area; the Party proposed the name Clanbrassil for the DEA rather than Lagan River.

Banbridge Councillor Carol Black and Councillor John Hanna both supported the provisional recommendations.

A member of the public also expressed the view that Gransha ward had more affinity with Rathfriland and Banbridge than with Dromore.

Following the representations, the Commssioner said: “In assessing the evidence, I consider that the written and oral representations in relation to the Gilford ward do support the contention that the villages of Gilford and Lawrencetown have a close affinity with, and are part of the hinterland of, Banbridge.”

He concluded: “Apart from this transfer of the Gilford and Gransha wards, my Final Recommendations are the same as my Provisional Recommendations in relation to this local government district.”