DUP members of the ABC ‘shadow’ council have locked horns with other parties over the name of the new body, which takes power next April.
In a series of confidential workshops, the 13 DUP members among the 41 have been pushing hard for the ‘ABC’ title to remain, reflecting the three councils from which it is being formed – Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon.
A DUP source revealed that names suggested so far included ‘Armagh and Bann’, ‘Armagh and Down’, ‘Armagh City and Upper Bann’ and ‘Oriel’, one of Ireland’s nine ancient kingdoms which coincides almost entirely with the new council area.
The source added, “You can’t wipe out the Craigavon ethos just like that. All the talk so far is that ‘Armagh’ must figure large in the new name in order to retain the honour of having a Lord Mayor. But it has since been established that there will be a Lord Mayor whatever the title.
“Craigavon has the largest population and we are proud that our borough was named after Lord Craigavon, the First Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. And ABC will also represent the other two councils, with Armagh, the primatial city, coming first.”
But the ‘Craigavon’ history is putting off republican and nationalist councillors. When the city of Craigavon was created in the 1960s, the First Prime Minister connotations caused controversy, and one republican councillor told the ‘MAIL’, “We feel the same this time round.”
A nationalist source said Craigavon Borough Council had been “and remains sectarian since its formation in 1973, and it’s time to move on”.
The DUP, however, pointed out that unionists had a two-thirds majority in the shadow council – 27-14, with 13 DUP, 12 UUP, one independent unionist and one UKIP.
Ulster Unionists, though, are ambivalent, with Armagh City and District members keen to continue the cross-community ethos that has existed there.
One source said, “Armagh was one of the first councils in Northern Ireland to share responsibility and we don’t need the sectarian attitudes of Craigavon to spoil things. We rotated the Mayoralty – and then the Lord Mayoralty – without D’Hondt being imposed.
“Banbridge also worked in harmony and we must continue. It will have to be done this side of Christmas, as things like the new logo and stationery have to be designed.”