Friday, 28 March 2014

Defection Watch: UKIP gain North Down Foothold

Cllr John Montgomery
UKIP have gained a foothold on another Northern Irish council following the defection of Cllr John Montgomery (North Down, Abbey DEA) from the DUP to UKIP.  Montgomery said he was unhappy with the DUP leadership locally, saying the council group had become "a bit dictatorial".  Montgomery was briefly stripped of the DUP whip back in 2012, and said that problems had continued ever since then.  This is the first seat that UKIP have held on this strongly unionist council.

UKIP are becoming an increasingly significant force in Northern Irish politics with one MLA in Strangford, David McNarry who defected from the UUP, and a councillor elected under UKIP colours in Newry and Mourne - Henry Reilly.  Reilly has already been selected to contest Northern Ireland in the upcoming European elections, and UKIP are also planning to stand candidates in elections to Northern Ireland's eleven new "super councils" being held on the same day.  The Northern Irish European Parliament constituency is unique in the UK in electing members by a Single Transferable Vote system, as opposed to the D'Hondt party list system used elsewhere.

It is hard to predict how things will turn out with such radical changes to Northern Ireland's local government system coming shortly, but presumably Cllr Montgomery will contest a seat for the new North Down and Ards Council, which will be operating as a shadow council for one year to allow for a transition between the existing councils and the new ones.  Thus, his seat on the existing North Down Council will still continue until May of next year even if he isn't elected to the new council.

New council composition -
DUP - 11 (-1)
Alliance - 5
UUP - 4
Independents - 3
Green - 1
UKIP - 1 (+1)