Speculation starts over who will fill council vacancies

Cllr Richie McPhillips reclaimed the seat for the SDLP held by Tommy Gallagher before the 2011 election    MC22

Cllr Richie McPhillips reclaimed the seat for the SDLP held by Tommy Gallagher before the 2011 election MC22


Speculation has begun to mount over who will fill the two suddenly vacant seats on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council (FODC). 
The election of now former councillors Rosemary Barton and Richie McPhillips to Stormont have left both the UUP and an SDLP with vacant spots on the council, with the newly elected MLAs already receiving letters from the powers-that-be telling them they are no longer members of FODC. 
Neither Ms Barton or Mr McPhillips would be drawn on their prospective replacements at the count centre in Omagh at the weekend, with Ms Barton stating it was “all still up in the air,” however SDLP Cllr John Coyle told the Herald on Monday their party had already started planning ahead to fill Mr McPhillips’ seat. 
“We will be having a selection convention in Erne East for the council seat,” he said, stating that any potential replacements were currently “top secret.”
 “The candidate will be interviewed then selected. We’re just going to take a few days to digest and get settled right now, but there will be a new face on the Council soon.” 
With regard the UUP vacancy, Ms Barton did concede that her Assembly running mate, Alastair Patterson, who garnered just eight less first preference votes than the she did, may be a possible contender. 
“We may not be seeing the last of Alastair, but I’m really not sure yet, it’s a decision for him to make,” said Ms Barton MLA. 
Speaking after his elimination from the election race on Friday night, outgoing MLA Mr Patterson, who had been co-opted onto the Assembly following the departure of Neil Sommerville, confirmed he had already been approached about the possibility of taking Ms Barton’s seat. 
“Let’s wait and see what happens,” said the Castlederg man. “At this minute in time that’s not going to be a decision I’m going to make. The opportunity has already been presented, but we’ll see. I want to let the dust settle now and I want to go away and think about this. I want think about what I do next in life.” 
Mr Patterson added that, for the time being, he wanted to concentrate on his family life, with his wife Olga expecting their first child in October, “all being well.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s Phil Flanagan may have had his eye on a council seat following his elimination from the running on Friday night. At that point, when many were confident his party colleague Cllr John Feely would take a third seat for Sinn Fein, the outgoing MLA had vowed to continue to work for the people of the community. At that point he may have anticipated a SF vacancy on the Council, however with the SDLP’s Richie McPhillips pulling off the shock of the election, that option is no longer there for the Garrison man.

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