THE DUP will field four candidates in the forthcoming Assembly elections, the Times understands.
In addition to sitting members, Mervyn Storey and Paul Frew, it is believed that Ballymoney councillor, Evelyne Robinson, will run alongside Ballymena businessman, David McIlveen.
The inclusion of Councillor Robinson is a clear indication that the DUP are determined to do all they can to consolidate and perhaps increase their representation at the Assembly. At the last election the two Paisleys, Ian Senior and Junior joined Mervyn Storey at Stormont. It is understood that the party were anxious to field a woman in an attempt to further capitalise on their popularity
Former Mayor, Councillor John Finlay, had been tipped to take the fourth nomination, but has again lost out. Although making no comment, Cllr. Finlay is thought by his political colleagues to be deeply disappointed having long cherished the prospect of representing his constituents of North Antrim at a higher level.
He is viewed as a hard working representative and to lose out on this occasion is understood to have left him devastated.
This time the ballot box papers will not have the name Paisley on them for the first time in years and some of the other parties feel that this will be an interesting test for the DUP’s general standing in North Antrim.
The Ulster Unionists have two candidates - Ballymoney Mayor, Cllr. Bill Kennedy and Mr. Robin Swann.
Sitting UUP member, Robert Coulter is standing down after a distinguished career at Stormont, and his two successors are both anxious to win a seat each.
Declan O’Loan will represent the SDLP and Daithi McKay will fly the flag for Sinn Fein.
The TUV selected Jim Allister to spearhead their campaign in North Antrim.
And in a rousing speech to the party faithful, Mr. Allister set out his vision for the future of Stormont.
He said “It’s time to face facts. This Stormont is not working! It is a dysfunctional shambles. It needs urgent reform, not in 4 years, but now.”
“We want devolution that works. TUV is not opposed to shared government. With no party having majority support, coalition is inevitable, but to work it must be voluntary, not mandatory.
“This is the democratic way forward for which TUV will strive, not in the distant future, but NOW.”
Meanwhile, the DUP are understood to be still looking for candidates to bolster thier share of the vote in the local Government elections in Ballymooney.
So far, in Bushvale, Frank Campbell and Evelyne Robinson will seek to regain their seats and in Ballymoney, Cllrs. Mervyn Storey, Ian Stevenson and Cecil Cousley have been selected.
A new face is understood to be helping contest the Bann Valley seat. Former journalist, Brian Kelly, will join Cllr. John Finlay and Cllr. Robert Halliday to oppose, amongst others, Audrey Patterson, who having got elected on a DUP ticket at the last election, subsequently defected to the TUV.
However, the DUP are still seeking more candidates believing there is an extra seat for them in the Town ward in Ballymoney.
A source said: “There’ll be more developments. The party will be doing all it can to gain full control of the council.”