Stalwart Hanna and Owen rejoin DUP after resignations

Stalwart Hanna and Owen rejoin DUP after resignations

15 September 2021

TWO local politicians have this week rejoined the DUP just months after quitting the party.

Mournes councillor Glyn Hanna and Rowallane’s Kathryn Owen resigned at the start of June to become Independents over concerns about the direction their former political home was taking under Edwin Poots who briefly succeeded Arlene Foster as leader.

The couple’s resignation — alongside that of Cllr Hanna’s daughter Diane Forsythe – came after a meeting of the party’s South Down Association.

Mr Hanna was ousted as chairman at the meeting by the narrowest of margins with the DUP resignations coming in the midst of sexism and bullying allegations which the party promised to investigate.

At the time, it was reported that there were tensions within the party’s South Down Association.

Cllr Hanna said he was happy that under the new party leadership, issues which he had problems with “are being confronted and resolved” while Cllr Owen said she has returned to the party because she believed in Sir Jeffrey’s brand of unionism and the direction he wants to take Northern Ireland.

With Sir Jeffrey now at the helm of the party, having succeeded Mr Poots, Cllr Hanna said he had been in regular contact with him over recent weeks and, as a result of their conversations, had decided to rejoin the party.

He continued: “The new party leadership has work to do but I do believe Sir Jeffrey has the skills and leadership ability to lead unionism and face the massive constitutional issues the Northern Ireland Protocol is causing. 

“I am happy with the new strong stance Sir Jeffrey announced last week in regard to the Protocol. I believe that if the issue is not dealt with, it will continue to pollute our politics and damage our economy like a thousand cuts.”

Cllr Hanna said republicans and nationalists talk about an all-Ireland economy connected to the EU “but fail to consider GB is our biggest market by value and volume”.

He said he wanted Northern Ireland and the Republic to cooperate to make a better economic future for everyone, but warned that this must be based on mutual respect. 

“I have known Jeffrey all my life and he shouldn’t be underestimated in his determination to fight for those who identify and wish to remain British within the UK. Sir Jeffrey is speaking and reflecting what the people are telling him,” declared Cllr Hanna.

He added: “As I rejoin the party I look forward to playing a positive and constructive role. There are still issues that I want to see resolved within the DUP in South Down and believe we now have a road map to make progress. My focus is on the future and delivering for the people of South Down and for the Democratic Unionist Party.”

Cllr Owen, who was approached by the Ulster Unionist Party in the summer, said she believed the DUP was “very much back on track”, explaining that no one can deny that the party had a bumpy ride. She insisted that she looks forward to the challenges ahead and helping build the party as one that is appealing to the broad pro-Union community.

“I have known Jeffrey Donaldson for over 15 years and have absolute faith in his vision and leadership skills,” she continued, confirming that the party leader and other senior DUP officials have given her personal assurances that the concerns she previously raised will be taken seriously and addressed.

Cllr Owen added: “I have been told that there most definitely is a place for me in the party. Over the summer there has been a listening exercise and I am confident that this will prove fruitful in helping to put the DUP on a more positive footing.”

Strangford MLA and former Stormont education minister Peter Weir, said he was delighted that both councillors were rejoining the DUP team. 

He continued: “Alongside Cllr Billy Walker they form a formidable team in Newry, Mourne and Down Council and will be strong voices for their constituents and the unionist cause locally.

“I have known Glyn and Kathryn for some time and they are dedicated and capable public representatives who will continue to serve with vigour. “

Mr Weir added: “Despite some who claim to the contrary, it shows that momentum is beginning to grow behind the DUP and is a clear vote of confidence in the leadership of Sir Jeffrey. I look forward to continue working with them in the months and years to come.”

Cllr Walker said he was delighted that Cllr Hanna has rejoined the DUP and will sit alongside him in the debating chamber.

“I am pleased to welcome back Glyn. I was gutted when he took the decision to quit the party as he has been a major asset to me since the formation of Newry, Mourne and Down Council. He has done tremendous work in the Mournes electoral area,” he said.

“It was a blow when he left the party, but I am so glad that he is back and look forward to working with him on many key issues over the coming weeks and months as a party colleague but, more importantly, as a friend.”