Just before Christmas Lisburn SDLP Councillor Peter O'Hagan died. O'Hagan had been a councillor for Killultagh DEA since 1989, and was a founder member of the SDLP.
Although Killultagh is a largely unionist area it is unlikely that any of the unionist parties will block a co-option to replace O'Hagan. Lisburn Council is firmly controlled by unionists and they have no practical need for another seat. The normal practice of showing respect for the dead by not politicising their death and replacement will probably be followed in this case. The next scheduled Council meeting will take place on 26 January 2010, and the co-option should be on the agenda for that meeting.
Although the SDLP does not have any obvious candidates in Killultagh (O'Hagan was their sole standard-bearer there for many years), the party is likely to use the opportunity to co-opt a young hopeful with an eye to the more important elections that will take place in 2011. It will be interesting to see who they pick.
Update on other Council vacancies:
On 21 October 2009 this blog reported the death of UUP Coleraine Councillor Liz Johnston. This blog anticipated that the seat would be filled by co-option, and on 17 November it duly was, with David Harding elected unanimously to fill the vacancy.
On 16 November 2009 this blog reported the death of Craigavon SDLP Councillor Ignatius Fox. Although this blog was less certain that there would be a co-option in this case (Craigavon is less predictable than many other councils), on 21 December 2009 Craigavon council did in fact co-opt an SDLP replacement for Fox – Michael McGoldrick, who had previously played no public political role.