Independent status for Carrickfergus councillor after DUP resignation

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A Mid and East Antrim councillor who resigned from the DUP last week will continue his four-year term as an Independent.

Carrick Castle Cllr David Clarke will be one of three Independent councillors on the local authority.

Cllr Clarke was selected by the DUP in October after the Carrick Castle seat held by Cheryl Brownlee MLA was vacated when she succeeded party colleague, the late David Hilditch, to the Assembly.

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Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service about his decision to leave the DUP, Cllr Clarke said had been a member of the party for 18 months taking part in canvassing and assisting with outreach “surgeries”.

Independent Cllr David Clarke. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough CouncilIndependent Cllr David Clarke. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
Independent Cllr David Clarke. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

He said: “I am a Unionist and they are a mainstream Unionist party.” He went on to explain he was co-opted after applying for the position, submitting a CV and completing an interview carried out by a panel of senior party members. However, he said he believed his co-option was “not accepted” by some party colleagues.

Cllr Clarke also spoke about his “very serious concerns” over an internal job recruitment process for which he said he had applied and was unsuccessful. He also claimed that he had been told not to speak at council meetings. “How can you represent constituents if you can’t speak?” he stated.

“It was a very difficult time. There were some people in the association who never accepted me,” he alleged.

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He went on to say he believes that the “very high levels of stress” he experienced resulted in him being admitted to Antrim Hospital for three days suffering from chest pains and “extremely high” blood pressure.

“In the meantime, I have tried to raise these issues with the DUP,” he continued. After considering his options, Cllr Clarke decided to resign from the DUP and continue his mandate as an Independent councillor.

“I am going as an Independent. I feel okay about it. I will be able to speak so I will not have to be silent. Of course it is daunting. It is never what I wanted. I never envisaged being in this situation. I am not prepared to sacrifice my morals, principles or integrity for anything.”

In an online post, Cllr Clarke claimed: “After what has been a horrendous and very difficult time, I’ve resigned from the DUP. It was with very genuine and deep regret, sadness and hurt that I came to this decision. It was after a lot of thought and many sleepless nights. Ultimately, I felt I had no alternative in the circumstances.

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“Nevertheless, I am delighted to be staying on the council as an Independent councillor. I remain dedicated to the people of Carrickfergus and Mid and East Antrim as a whole.

“I have been blown away by the support I have received from across the political spectrum and right across Northern Ireland."

Valerie Watts, interim chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said: “I wish to confirm that I have received notification from Councillor David Clarke that he has resigned as a member of the DUP and wishes to continue to represent the people of Carrick Castle DEA as an Independent councillor in Mid and East Antrim Borough Council with immediate effect.”

The DUP did not respond to a request for a comment.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter