A couple of weeks ago, the (Bangor) Spectator ran a story about UUP councillor Roberta Dunlop’s resignation from the party after not being reselected to stand for her Abbey Ward seat. Her husband and fellow North Down councillor Harry Dunlop had defected from the UUP to the DUP in January,
But the other half of the short article is much more intriguing.
Brian Wilson, the Green Party’s only MLA, is standing down from the Assembly in May, and new NI party leader Steven Agnew will be running in North Down. He’s also currently a Green councillor in North Down. His wife Anne is an Alliance councillor and is running alongside Stephen Farry in North Down as Alliance’s second candidate in May’s Stormont elections.
While Brian is standing down from the Assembly, he’s planning to run for council again … but as an independent. The Spectator explains:
In another twist, North Down’s only Green Party councillor, Alderman Brian Wilson, has announced he will be standing as an Independent at May’s local elections …
“When I stepped down as party leader last year I told my successor that I wouldn’t be standing for the Greens again,” he told the Spectator.
“I want to focus on fighting council issues rather than just green issues. I am still a member of the Green Party but I don’t want to keep running everything I do past the party first. There are so many different issues I feel strongly about and feel they will be best dealt with as an Independent.”
Quite naturally, long-serving councillor Anne Wilson is expected to inherit some of her husband’s green vote in the Assembly election, harming Steven Agnew’s chances of holding on to the seat. But Brian Wilson will surely damage the Green’s Joanne Dunlop who is running in the same Bangor West ward.
Back at the end of January – days before the Spectator article – Brian Wilson “enthusiastically endorsed” the Green’s candidates in North Down.
Current Green Party North Down MLA Brian Wilson has enthusiastically endorsed the party’s selection “On May 5, The Green Party will again provide an alternative choice at the ballot box to the failed political parties which are responsible for the social and economic mess we find ourselves in today,” Mr Wilson said. “North Down has previously proved itself to one of the most politically progressive areas in Northern Ireland and I believe that vision for a better future will again be reflected at the ballot box at the upcoming elections.
“Our candidates selected to fight for council seats will be a breath of fresh air for the constituents in North Down and their mix of ages and backgrounds will ensure that everyone in the Borough will have a political representative that they can relate to.
“They will bring a combination of energy, experience and commitment to their roles which will be of huge benefit to the town of Bangor and to the borough as a whole.”
While Joanne Dunlop must feel a bit like she’s stitched up like a kipper rather than being wholeheartedly endorsed, the Green Party are being incredibly gracious in their statements about the situation in North Down. Praising Brian Wilson’s achievement of being elected as the Green Party’s first MLA.
Brian remains a member and active supporter of the Green Party and continues to support the policies and principles on which the party is based.
At this stage of his long political career, he now wants to focus his energies as an independent candidate for local council so that he can concentrate solely on issues relating to the North Down area.
We are delighted that he remains a member of the party and will continue to offer us invaluable advice based on his considerable political experience.
Party leader Steven Agnew echoes that sentiment and gives Brian’s decision his blessing:
The Green Party owes Brian Wilson an enormous debt of gratitude for the tireless work he has put in as the first ever Green Party MLA. Brian has decided that he wants to step back from party political activity and focus on being a councillor in North Down. Brian remains a member of the Green Party but wants the freedom that being an independent councillor will give him. Brian has my full support and that of the Party in making this decision.
The Green Party is standing Joanne Dunlop in Bangor West in the local government elections. Brian Wilson has had a significant surplus in past local government elections and we feel that there is the potential for both Brian and Joanne to get elected.
On a personal level, it is thanks to the support and tutelage of Brian that I am where I am today, both in terms of my successful European election campaign and my recent election as Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland.
I’m genuinely not convinced by Brian Wilson’s excuse that he needs to give up his party designation in order to deal with a full range of local issues on council. Name one other independent local councillor who retains membership of a party organised in Northern Ireland? But I am impressed at the Green Party’s grace and ability to take this on the chin.
In May we’ll find out what effect the Wilson family mayhem will have on the election results in North Down.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about, reports from, live-tweets and live-streams civic, academic and political events and conferences. He delivers social media training/coaching; produces podcasts and radio programmes; is a FactCheckNI director; a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland; and a member of the Corrymeela Community.