CARRICK DUP Councillor David Clarke’s had a fraught few months – even by the standards of a party for whom fraught is mission statement. Four months ago he sort of fell into frontline politics when he was co-opted to fill the Carrick Council boots of colleague Cheryl Brownlee, who herself was co-opted to take the Assembly seat of the late MLA David Hilditch. And obviously the word ‘seat’ in the context of the DUP’s Stormont means not a seat in the chamber but a seat in the living room watching Homes Under the Hammer and Murder, She Wrote.

According to Dave, he was made as welcome as a priest at a UDR reunion by people within the party who believed others should have got the gig. “There were certain people who made life quite difficult for me, and made their, if you like, unhappiness about my co-option known to me and made life difficult,” he told the BBC. 

He said this unrest resulted in him being bullied and suffering heart problems which landed him in hospital. So concerned was he for his physical and mental health, and so incredibly disillusioned was he by the party’s refusal to deal with his complaints, that he resigned from the DUP.

Although Dave has taken down the portrait of Jeffrey Donaldson from his office and handed back his red, white and blue membership card, he’s decided to hold on to his seat – a state of affairs that incensed the Lundy Club, who – not without some justification – are incensed that he’s holding on to an elected position to which he hasn’t been elected. Needless to say, the party needed to articulate its displeasure to Despicable Dave and, needless to say, the tricky task of putting him in his place needed to be carried out by someone with enough gravitas and credibility to convince Cllr Clarke that he should do the right thing and fall on his ceremonial sword.

Step forward Emma Little-Pengelly, Lagan Valley MLA, who in an impassioned, lengthy and inspirational Facebook post explained to Dave why he should give the seat back to the party who gave it to him. 

Squinter rang Emma to invite her to expand on her thesis and discuss the latest DUP imbroglio.

– Morning, Emma, thanks for talking to me.

– You’re welcome. It’s part of my job, after all.

– So’s sitting in Stormont.

– Now, now. No need for that.

– Can you tell me briefly why you think Cllr Clarke should step down?

– Of course. How can he look his constituents in the eye when he hasn’t received a single vote in Carrick?

– You can see the problem here, right?

– No, but go ahead and fascinate me.

– Well, you haven’t received a single vote in Lagan Valley either.

– Now we’re just splitting hairs.

– How so?

– When the people of Lagan Valley voted for Jeffrey Donaldson they were voting for the DUP. I’m DUP too – so all good.

– Have you discussed this with Jeffrey?

– Oh, yes. He’s absolutely with me on this.

– Didn’t he jack in the UUP in 2003?

– I believe he did, yes.

– Did he give his Lagan Valley seat back to the UUP?

– Not sure, to be honest with you.

– The answer is no, he didn’t. He just moved over to the DUP. With his UUP mandate.

– But at least people voted for him – nobody voted for Cllr Clarke.

– The DUP selection panel voted for him. Let’s see now, says here you wrote in your Facebook post to Cllr Clarke: “The votes we are representing were not given to us personally. The seat you hold is a DUP seat.”  Wasn’t Jeffrey’s seat a UUP seat in 2003?

– That was then, this is now.

– Of course it is, but don’t you think this message would have been better communicated to Cllr Clarke by somebody else?

– Like who?

– Oh, I don’t know...  Somebody who was elected?

– On the contrary, I believe that my position as an unelecte... sorry... as a co-opted MLA gives me a unique insight into rights and wrongs of interim appointments. And of course in my Facebook post I mentioned the fact that we are fellow co-optees.

– Remind me, why did Jeff – sorry, Sir Jeffrey – jack in his Stormont seat in 2022?

– To avoid double-jobbing, which our party opposes.

– So he asked the people of Lagan Valley to vote him into Stormont on May 5, 2022, and he resigned his seat when?

– May 11.

– 2023?

– No, 2022.

– Six days after he was elected?

– Give or take.

– And you got the seat?

– Lucky me, eh?

– You can say that again.­