DUP councillor Frances Burton, former deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, has been appointed as the new President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA).
Officially appointed on 21 June, Burton was appointed in line with party strengths across councils, to lead the all council, all party body for 2019/2020.
Burton, who topped the poll with 1,891 first preference votes in Clogher Valley, has served as a councillor since 2005. Originally a representative of the Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, Burton was elected to the reformed Mid Ulster District Council in 2014, prior to the new council assuming responsibilities on 1 April 2015.
Burton will be joined as a NILGA office bearer by four vice-presidents including Sinn Féin’s Matt Garrett, the UUP’s former MLA Danny Kinahan, the SDLP’s Martin Kearney and the Alliance Party’s Alan McDowell.
Appointment to the Presidency role within NILGA is based on party strength and office bearers are nominated by their own party. While it is usually the format that those office bearers selected by their party for the first term remain in position for the length of the full term cycle, it is not a requirement and parties are able to change their nomination. This has been the case in the past where a councillor has left the role or been elevated to Assembly level. However, it is expected that those currently in office, will be elevated to the Presidency role on a yearly cycle.
Describing herself as a rural advocate, Burton said it was an honour to be put forward by her party for the role, outlining her belief that Northern Ireland’s local government sector, working in partnership, had a massive role to play in developing the region. Burton highlighted economic and infrastructure development as examples of where partnership working can bring about improvements.
Burton replaces the outgoing President SDLP’s Dermot Curran of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, who held the position since 2018. Curran is Northern Ireland’s longest serving elected representative, having first been elected to Down District Council in 1973.
The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) is the council led representative body for local authorities in Northern Ireland. The Association is supported by political parties and independent members in councils, and works in partnership with other key regional bodies and stakeholders.
It is headed up by Chief Executive Derek McCallan.
NILGA members are drawn from each of the 11 councils and the Association supports and represents NI Local Government’s interests on regional bodies, within the Local Government Group of Associations in the UK, ROI and in Europe.
Previous NILGA Presidents:
Dermot Curran (SDLP)
Arnold Hatch (UUP)
Seán McPeake (Sinn Féin)
Carla Lockhart (replaced by Freda Donnelly on election to Assembly) (both DUP)