Mayor’s clarion call for unity

Success for UUP,  Richard Holmes, Norman Hillis, David Harding, and William King. INCR22-141MJ
Success for UUP, Richard Holmes, Norman Hillis, David Harding, and William King. INCR22-141MJ

The mayor of Coleraine has vowed to work with all political parties to benefit the entire Causeway Coast and Glens region.

Councillor David Harding said he would “accept at face value” extreme Republicans and Unionists on the basis that they would work for the betterment of the new Council.

Speaking after his election in Coleraine DEA, mayor Harding said: “We have a group of councillors from different parties who are committed, able, who are from this area and of this area and they really want this place to succeed. There is commonality.

“There might be fairly extreme republicans, there might be fairly extreme loyalists, but actually they are from here and I’m going to accept them at face value.

“I spoke to Russell Watton briefly last night and if he genuinely wants to move this place forward he has the connection to the people that we have left behind as Ulster Unionists.

“It was never for me or the likes of me to walk into Ballysally, Harpur’s Hill or Windyhall and tell them what to do. I would never do that.

“It’s about people who have a connection with that community to bring them into the political process. It’s the only way for us to go forward.

“People want to know if we are going to be responsible and talk to each other and make decisions that are good for Coleraine. I’m excited. It’s happening now and what an opportunity.”

The UUP man expressed relief that he was re-elected: “I was in a new area, I’d never stood in Coleraine before. We thought it was going to be very, very tight and deliberately put two candidates in because we felt if we were going to get anywhere we are going to have to expand the vote.

“You can see from some of the results from the other candidates that the UUP really put the effort in. I was delighted to get in in the end.

To us, right across the board, this is the change we were looking for.

“I am so humbled that I can hardly put into words the people of Coleraine are allowing me to continue to serve them.

“William [McCandless] and I are going to rebuild Ulster Unionism in Coleraine. It hasn’t been nurtured,

“We are stunned. Never in our wildest dreams did we think this would happen. We can’t believe it, to be honest, we’d hoped for six councillors and we think it’s going to be nine or ten - and it’s been done by hard work.”

The mayor said he was excited about the future of the region.

“We have to make a commitment to Coleraine now and establish it as the regional capital of Causeway Coast and Glens. We have to bring investment in and in five years time we will be judged not by party political issues or sectarian issues but by have we brought jobs here. There is a future for Coleraine.

“I’m also delighted for Richard [Holmes], he didn’t think he’d get in but he has and he’s such as asset for the Council.”

The mayor said the next six or seven months would be important. “I see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform how councils are run, to reinvigorate councils, to give opportunities to council officers who have ability, to advance and bring forward new ideas.

“We have a fantastic chief excecutive. David Jackson has the vision to move things forward.

“At stages yesterday I didn’t think I’d get in but now this is about real commitment. Real work.”