A 25-year veteran councillor is to bow out of Dromore come May’s local government elections and a leading light of the 2009 Skeagh House campaign is to step in to contest the seat instead.
An SDLP reshuffle will see Councillor Cassie McDermott stand for election in Banbridge Town, after representing the Dromore Ward for more than a quarter of a century; taking her place as the party’s Dromore candidate is local man Louis Boyle, whose experience of working in health and social services was instrumental in shaping the campaign to save Skeagh House from closure.
The news emerged after an SDLP District Executive selection meeting on Friday, at which Banbridge district candidates were confirmed.
Seamus Doyle will stand for re-election in Knockiveagh, where he has served for more than 20 years, but it’s all change elsewhere as the party sets its sights on winning two seats in Banbridge and upping its overall representation on the district council to four.
Councillor Patrick McAleenan is standing down in Banbridge, leaving Mrs. McDermott, who moved to Banbridge some years ago, and newcomer Marie Hamilton to seek election in the Town Ward, while Mr. Boyle woos Dromore voters.
“Our aim is to strengthen the SDLP representation on the council to four councillors, which we believe is very achievable,” said Mr. Doyle.
In Dromore meanwhile, where he has lived for more than 25 years, Mr. Boyle is looking forward to the coming campaign and, if successful, to representing the Dromore area on Banbridge Council.
He first paid tribute to Councillor McDermott, and whom he believes will be a strong candidate in Banbridge Town.
Married to local woman Margaret McCann, whose family lived in, and were well known in, Dromore for many years Mr. Boyle was himself a founder member of Dromore Walking Club and was involved for 10 years in the Dromore Juniors Football Club, now part of the Dromore Amateurs youth set-up
He has also been involved in the Dromore/Drumore twinning association and, in a wider, Banbridge district, context, he has been involved in the Banbridge District Partnership and is a member of the Community Safety Partnership, the Board of Governors at Banbridge’s Donard School and the Board of Directors of Banbridge CAB.
Mr. Boyle retired six years ago after 35 years of public service, much of it at senior level in health and social services, a background he employed to telling effect in helping co-ordinate the Skeagh House campaign.
Having worked on the still active Skeagh House Action Committee alongside Ulster Unionist Councillor Carol Black, and given that he still harbours concerns over the long term future of the facility, Mr. Boyle stressed the importance of a cross-party united front on this and similar issues.
Insisting it was essential that the commnity too remained vigilant in defence of Skeagh House, he said, “I retain concerns as to the long term future of Skeagh House but believe that such a fine facility, with all of its years of dedicated service, must continue to play a key role in a spectrum of services for older people in Dromore and district.
“If elected I will be very happy to work with other public representatives to ensure the future of the home.”
With time on his hands to devote his energies to promoting the interests of Dromore, Mr. Boyle believes he would also bring to the council chamber a wealth of administrative experience and knowledge of health and social services and public services generally.
“I believe that the next few years are going to be very difficult for all public services in Northern Ireland,” he said, “and it is going to be a great challenge for Banbridge council to make savings in these years of constraint and to retain frontline services.”
“Over the next few months, until the election on May 5, I intend to canvass in every part of the area, including all of the rural areas. I believe that too often public representatives take their electorate for granted.
“To get people to vote for you, you must be aware of the issues which are important to them and then fight on their behalf.”