Olive Mercer has dramatically backed out of the Assembly race in Lagan Valley after what she called “endeavours to hinder” her campaign.
Rumours that the former Dromore councillor and one-time Chair of Banbridge District Council hadwithdrawn her candidacy began to circulate late last week.
Mrs Mercer confirmed yesterday (Monday) she was no longer seeking election as an Ulster Unionist Party MLA for Lagan Valley.
She pointed no fingers and declined to elaborate on how, or by whom, her campaign had been hindered.
She wished the other candidates well.
A member of the UUP’s Garvaghy/Skeagh branch, Mrs Mercer was one of seven Ulster Unionists elected to Banbridge District Council in 2011 and served as the old authority’s penultimate chairman.
Standing in the new Lagan River District Electoral Area, she failed to win election to the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon supercouncil in 2014.
In an apparent return to the political arena, the local woman emerged in December as one of three Ulster Unionist candidates in Lagan Valley, standing alongside Lisburn Councillors Jenny Palmer and Robbie Butler.
Party leader Mike Nesbitt hailed the three as “high-calibre candidates”.
When her name was first submitted to party headquarters by the local association Mrs Mercer said she would welcome the challenge of working for all the people of Lagan Valley.
Her later candidacy announcement came with a statement that she was honoured to have been selected and was “looking forward to engaging with the electorate, promoting our message alongside Robbie and Jenny, and delivering the Ulster Unionist Party’s vision for a better Northern Ireland for all”.
When she spoke to The Leader yesterday Mrs Mercer offered no details in respect of precisely what had gone wrong.
“Due to recent endeavours to hinder my campaign,” she said, “I have withdrawn my name and am no longer seeking election as an Ulster Unionist MLA for the Lagan Valley constituency.
“I would like to convey my sincere thanks to everyone who has supported me during the selection process and throughout my term as an elected representative.
“I wish all my fellow candidates well.”