DUP deselects councillor relative of former minister Jonathan Bell

Pamela Barr (left) with DUP leader Arlene Foster in 2016
Pamela Barr (left) with DUP leader Arlene Foster in 2016

A long-standing unionist councillor has publicly aired her disappointment at not being chosen to stand again by her party.

Newtownabbey DUP representative Pamela Barr said that it will mark the end of an 18-year career for her.

Both the Irish Times and Belfast Telegraph have previously reported that she is the sister-in-law of Jonathan Bell, the former DUP MLA, who fell out with the party when he gave a high-profile interview to Stephen Nolan, blasting his colleagues over the RHI scandal.

Neither Alderman Barr nor the party have made it clear why she has not been reselected.

Writing online on Sunday, Alderman Barr said: “Difficult post to write, but I have not been selected to run as a DUP candidate in the council elections in May, for reasons best left unsaid.

“I do however, still firmly believe that families should stick together in times of despair and hurt and I believe that I can end my 18 years service with my head held high.

“Thank you to those in the party that have supported me and encouraged me over the past two years. Your friendship will never be forgotten. Wishing you all every success in May.

“Signing off now to spend some time with my family and accept that some things are just not meant to be x.”

Jonathan Bell had been Arlene Foster’s successor as enterprise minister, and as such had for a time been in charge of the RHI scheme, shortly before the scandal became public.

He later publicly declared that he had attempted to close the RHI scheme when he became aware of its problems, but was overruled from within the DUP. Details of his account have been disputed by the DUP.

Then in 2017 he unsuccessfully stood as an independent candidate for Strangford – with Alderman Barr publicly telling him she was “supporting you 100%”.

Alderman Barr could not be reached directly on Sunday.

The DUP said: “The DUP selection processes for local government elections in May have been very competitive and, given the volume of applicants, unfortunately a significant number of people including sitting councillors have not on this occasion been successful.

“While the process is not yet fully completed we do not intend to give any further specific detail about individual applicants.”