Possible return to politics for former council chairperson

Councillor Olive Mercer.
Councillor Olive Mercer.
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Former Dromore councillor and one-time Banbridge District Council Chair, Olive Mercer, may be set for a return to frontline politics.

Mrs Mercer’s name is one of three the UUP’s Lagan Valley Association has submitted to party headquarters as potential candidates in next year’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

The Leader understands the others to be sitting Lisburn and Castlereagh City councillors Alexander Redpath and Robbie Butler.

It’s early days, and with no current indication as to how many candidates the Ulster Unionists intend to field in Lagan Valley, Mrs Mercer is not looking much beyond her sense of the privilege attendant on having been nominated for consideration.

She said simply: “It’s in the hands of party headquarters.”

That said, she seems undaunted by the fact that were she to be selected, and later elected, she would be thrust onto a larger political stage than the one from which she bowed out earlier this year, after earlier failing to win election to the new Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

A member of the Garvaghy/Skeagh Ulster Unionist branch, and well-known among the farming community in the wider Dromore area, Mrs Mercer served in the twilight years of the recently defunct Banbridge District Council, to which she was elected in 2011.

She was returned as one of seven successful UUP candidates, the Ulster Unionists thereby bucking the trend to wrest overall control of the council from the DUP.

Comparative political newcomer Mrs Mercer would later serve as the waning local authority’s penultimate chairman, overseeing celebrations of its 40th anniversary even as its end drew near.

She said at the time: “It’s the enthusiasm and goodwill of its residents that makes Banbridge district one of the best places to live.”

Among Mrs Mercer’s other roles in the old district council was chair of the Environmental Services Committee.

On whether she would relish not only a return to active politics but the prospect of treading the corridors of devolved power, she said: “Obviously yes.

“I do maintain an interest in politics and hopefully being there for everyone in the constituency and doing what’s right for people.

“I would welcome the challenge of working for all the people of Lagan Valley.”