Kevin puts himself in the frame

WELL-known north Antrim press photographer Kevin McAuley has revealed to the Times he is standing as an Independent in the Ballycastle electoral area in this May's elections for Moyle Council, writes Nevin Farrell.

The Ballycastle man is a familiar figure in the area and can often be seen at Council headquarters, Sheskburn House, taking pictures of Council-related business.

But if he is backed by the public when he walks into the Council chamber after election day on May 5 it could be as a councillor.

Mr McAuley said he aims to be "non-political in the truest sense" and says it is time to keep wider politics out of the chamber.

"I want real local issues to be discussed in the Council chamber and I feel that local councils should be more represented by Independents.

"At Council level most issues which effect people on a day to day basis are non-party issues like getting bins emptied and helping to get things like potholes fixed.

"There was a time in the past when Moyle Council had the highest percentage of Independents and I would like to see those days return," said Mr McAuley.

With his work as a press photographer he travels widely in the Moyle area and meets many people and he feels his local knowledge can be harnessed for the benefit of the whole community.

Already a member of Moyle District Policing Partnership, Mr McAuley hopes he can attract votes from across the community from people who are interested in dealing with local issues without a wider political agenda being attached.

Other news is that long-standing SDLP councillor Madeline Black - the current Vice-Chair of the Council - will not be standing again.

Her moderate stance saw her as an approachable councillor to people of all backgrounds in Moyle and her wider media profile in Northern Ireland was hailed as being a very sensible voice representing the area.

Cllr Black told the Times: "I have enjoyed my time at the Council and have been there almost ten years but it time for new blood to come through.

"I will still support the party but I am now in my 50s and I want to concentrate on my very busy full-time work."

Cllr. Black would like to thank everyone who voted for her down the years and says she always did her best to deal with all voters' problems and issues.

Councillor Chairman, Independent Price McConaghy, is the longest serving local councillor in Northern Ireland but it is understood he has still to decide whether to stand again or not.

Although most observers do see Price standing again in the Causeway Ward.

One source said: "Price is 82 and the oldest Council Chair in Northern Ireland. He works hard and has a vast local knowledge and is well respected by all shades of opinion. He will be 86 by the time the next Council comes to an end but is still well capable of doing a job."

Ballycastle is set to be an interesting contest this year. There was shock in many quarters when Ulster Unionist councillor Helen Harding was not selected by her party. Instead Joan Baird-Hanna, well known in Housing Executive circles in particular, was announced as their candidate.

The DUP may believe they can take the majority of the Unionist votes on offer in Ballycastle and the Traditional Unionist Voice may make an appearance.

Former DUP councillor Gardiner Kane is now with the TUV and there is speculation he could be put forward by the party, possibly in Ballycastle or in the Unionist stronghold of the Causeway electoral area.

Also in Ballycastle Sinn Fein will be running at least two candidates, one of whom is sure to be sitting councillor Cara McShane.

It is understood the party did not select Cathal Newcombe to run again and there is unconfirmed speculation he or someone close to him could stand as an Independent.

Former Sinn Fein councillor James McCarry is still, as always, a very political animal and it remains to be seen if he will make an attempt at a Council seat.

Independent councillor Seamus Blaney is expected to run again and Martin McCormick, who says he has been asked to run as an Independent to highlight the need for Tesco to come to Ballycastle, has not ruled out standing.

Over in the Causeway Ward, sitting Ulster Unionist Party councillor Willie Graham and Sandra Hunter have been selected by the party.

It is not expected either of the main two nationalist parties will contest a seat in the Causeway, likewise with the Unionists in the Glens but over in the Glens electoral area Sinn Fein is due to put three candidates forward.

There has been speculation over whether Sinn Fein's Oliver McMullan will stand again as a councillor in the Glens.

The Glens area is now included in the East Antrim Westminster/Assembly constituency and with Cllr McMullan set to stand for the party in the Assembly Elections it remains to be seen if he will stand as a councillor in the Larne area.

The colourful Randal McDonnell is expected to put his name forward again in the Glens as an Independent but there is speculation the SDLP could have at least one new candidate in the Glens.

And there was also a rumour current Glens Independent councillor, former Sinn Fein Padraig McShane, may stand this time in Ballycastle Town where he lives.

Current Council make-up:

Ballycastle Town: Cara McShane (Sinn Fein); Cathal Newcombe (Sinn Fein); Madeline Black (SDLP); Helen Harding (Ulster Unionist); Seamus Blaney (Independent).

Causeway: Robert McIlroy (DUP); avid McAllister (DUP); George Hartin (DUP); Price McConaghy (Independent); Willie Graham (Ulster Unionist).

Glens: Oliver McMullan (Sinn Fein); Padraig McShane (Independent); Catherine McCambridge (SDLP); Randal McDonnell (Independent); Orla Black (SDLP).