Nationalist members of the new ABC Council (Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon) are moving to have the name of ‘Craigavon’ excluded from the official title “given the sectarian connotations and history of the borough”.
Councillor Joe Nelson (SDLP), who is leading the move, said: “The name Craigavon was controversial from the start.
“Lord Craigavon, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was famous - or infamous - for his ‘Protestant Government for a Protestant people’ speeches.”
But DUP councillors from Craigavon have been out and about on unofficial surveys in the borough and in Banbridge and say that each area must be included in the title.
Said Mr Nelson: “Nationalists could have lived with the Craigavon name had unionists in the council not gone out of their way throughout its history (1973-April 2015) to live up to the Lord Craigavon diatribe. The list is endless – the St Peter’s GAA affair, the fact that the Mayorship was almost exclusively for unionists, the first Sinn Fein members were made to sit at a separate table.”
He added that nationalist councillors would plump for the ‘Armagh City and Bann Council’ option – there are eight SF and six SDLP members – and that Armagh members across the board might follow suit. “The ‘Armagh City and Bann’ name being proposed would be ideal, given that it’s the Primatial City and has the Catholic and Church of Ireland Cathedrals for all of Ireland.
“Armagh members have worked across the board. They were one of the first to invoke the d’Hondt sharing mechanism and that’s a main reason why they were elevated to Lord Mayor status three years ago.”
However, DUP councillors from Craigavon have been out and about in the borough area and in Banbridge assessing opinions over the name – and they claim that the people of Craigavon and Banbridge want their areas included in the title.
Acting ABC chairman Darryn Causby said: “Our party has been carrying out various surveys and none of the three areas wishes to lose its identity in the new set-up.
“There hasn’t been consensus, but an inclusive name has to be found.”
A fudge is likely to emerge at the January 29 meeting when the working title has to be agreed, and the name ‘ABC’ is likely to be used almost by default for a few months until the eventual name evolves.
Chief executive Roger Wilson has addressed the council on several issues – including the rates which must be struck by mid-February - and the name game isn’t top of his agenda. The alternatives, in the long run, will be ‘Armagh City and Upper Bann’, ‘Armagh City and Bann’ and ‘ABC’ with the three full names in smaller print.