IN an announcement on his Facebook page, underlining the importance of social media on modern politics, local Down District Council Sinn Féin councillor Liam Johnston from Downpatrick has indicated that he will be standing down in the next local government election in May 2014.
Over the past couple of years, he has been running a small business and has made the difficult decision to move aside at the election to allow another party colleague to step onto the breech. His replacement is to be Naomi Bállie, a politically well-schooled and highly educated party activist originally from the Ards area. Naomi is currently working as the personal assistant for South Down Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard.
While all local political parties are at the moment considering their positions in relation to who is to represent them in the coming ‘shadow elections’ in May 2014, Sinn Féin appears to have moved ahead in consolidating this position but it still has to be officially announced by the party in the run up to the election.
Councillor Johnston said on his Facebbook page on Tuesday 1 October: “After talking to my Sinn Féin comrades, family and friends, I have taken the decision not to contest the election for the Council in May 2014.
“This decision was not taken lightly and is something I have thought about for quite a while. I have enjoyed my time with Down District Council and when this current term is up, I will have served 10 years.
“The person chosen to replace me in the next election will be Naomi Báille, who currently works as the Personal Assistant for South Down MLA Chris Hazzard, and is based in our Downpatrick office.
“Naomi is a young, well educated, and capable woman and I’m sure will be an asset to the new Council team and indeed Sinn Fein within South Down. Her running mate in the Downpatrick area will be Councillor Eamonn Mac Con Midhe, a well known, respected and devoted Republican who I have grown very close to and have the greatest respect for. Eamonn guided and supported me for many, many years, for which I am truly grateful.
“If both these people get the seal of approval by the Sinn Féin leadership, I will give both my 100% support both during and after the election. I will in future be taking a more leading role behind the scenes within Sinn Fein to promote, encourage and develop the party at a local level and will be encouraging more people to support and join us and help make a change to the face of local politics. I would like to thank SouthDown SF and my own Cumann in Downpatrick in supporting me in my decision to withdraw from the next election. Ádh mór Naomi agus Eamonn.”
Some Background Election Figures
Sinn Féin Share of Vote in Local Election in Down District
Year……..Share of Vote…Total Voters
Interestingly, the size of the electorate in Down District has increased as has Sinn Féin’s share of the vote, but it levelled out in 2011.
The local government election in May 2014 will be a ‘shadow election’ as required by the Review of Public Adminstration.
The selection of this new council body is to manage the new joint council area encompassing Down District and Newry and Mourne Councils which are merging. The following year in 2015 the full council will be in operation.