Sinn Fein’s first councillor in Banbridge, Dessie Ward, has resigned.
Ward narrowly missed out on election to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007 and was seen as a rising star in the party.
The father-of-two’s decision to step down was described as a “bolt out of the blue” by the party. He was not returning calls yesterday.
Sinn Fein chairperson Declan Kearney said: “I am shocked to hear that Dessie Ward has decided to leave the party at a time when Sinn Fein is growing and achieving our objectives.
“Only this morning Dessie was using party offices to carry out constituency work. I am extremely disappointed that Dessie did not take the time to come to the party and discuss his problems.”
Mr Ward joined Sinn Fein aged 20. He was elected to the council in 2005, the youngest serving Sinn Fein councillor at 24, and the only member of the party to be elected in a largely unionist constituency.
He sits on Banbridge district tourist development association and east border region committee which helps build cross-border ties. His council interests include rural development and planning, regeneration of towns and villages, health care and job creation, while his personal interests include Irish history, politics and music.
Mr Kearney added: “... given that Dessie was elected on a Sinn Fein mandate he should now do the right thing by honouring his pledge to the local electorate and the party by resigning from this seat and allowing a Sinn Fein member to be co-opted.”