Banbridge (district)

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Coordinates: 54°21′04″N 6°16′01″W / 54.351°N 6.267°W / 54.351; -6.267

Banbridge District
Banbridge in Northern Ireland.svg
Area 453 km2 (175 sq mi) 
Ranked 15th of 26
District HQ Banbridge
Catholic 32%
Protestant 62.0%
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
List of places
Northern Ireland

Banbridge was a local government district in Northern Ireland. The district is one of 26 council areas formed on 1 October 1973, following the implementation of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972. The headquarters of the council were in the town of Banbridge. In April 2015, most of the Banbridge district was included in the merged Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon district.

Location and geography[edit]

The district is in the west of County Down and covers an area of 175 square miles (450 km2) of countryside – from Slieve Croob (1,775 ft) in the east to the River Bann valley in the west. It is also the main gateway to the Mourne Mountains, which lie to the south and is bisected by the A1 route between Belfast and Dublin.

The district was formed by the merger of Banbridge Urban District, Dromore Urban District and Banbridge Rural District. In 1993 there was a boundary change, and the Rathfriland area was transferred from the neighbouring district of Newry and Mourne.[1] The other main small towns in the area include Gilford, Loughbrickland and Scarva.[1] According to the 2001 census, the population of the district was just over 42,000 and according to the 2011 census this had grown to 48,339.

Economic profile[edit]

Historically Banbridge District’s economy has its roots in manufacturing (textile/linen and shoe production), agriculture and the retailing/service sector. Ferguson’s,[2] one of the oldest names in the Irish linen industry, still operates in Banbridge, and a shoe factory first opened in 1947 and closing in the early 2000s employed 600 workers at its height.[3] According to council statistics the district is currently home to over 1,770 businesses, the vast majority of which have fewer than 10 employees. One of the most important recent large-scale economic developments to occur in the district has been the opening of a discount fashion outlet on the outskirts of Banbridge, which currently has 59 different stores.[4] The outlet forms part of the Bridgewater Park development project, for which Tesco currently has planning permission to open one of its largest stores in Ireland.[5] In late 2010 Asda also submitted plans for a store in Banbridge, with the possibility of creating jobs for up to 250 district residents.[6]

Economic Indicator Geographic Unit 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Median Gross Weekly Wage[7] (£) Banbridge . . 280.4 308.1 294.0 324.8 271.7 280.5
Northern Ireland 305.4 318.7 322.7 329.9 346.5 354.6 356.6 360.0
Mean Gross Weekly Wage[7] (£) Banbridge 250.6 348.3 330.9 399.3 400.0 392.0 354.6 353.9
Northern Ireland 361.7 377.3 379.9 391.3 408.6 422.9 417.9 426.7
Unemployment Rate (claimant count)[8] (%) Banbridge . 1.3 1.2 1.1 1.4 2.8 3.5 4.0
Northern Ireland . 2.6 2.5 2.2 2.4 4.3 4.9 5.2

Health profile[edit]

In 2006–2008 the life of expectancy of females living in the district was 82.6 years (Northern Ireland average was 81.3), compared with a life expectancy of 78.1 for males (Northern Ireland average was 79.3). According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, in 2010 the district had a total of 12 GP practices with a total 31 GPs serving 54,956 registered patients, resulting in an average GP list size of 1,773, compared to the Northern Ireland of 1,608.[9] The district had its own hospital, located in Banbridge, until December 1996 when inpatient services were ended. Craigavon Area Hospital now deals with the majority of primary care cases from the district. In January 2002, the district council paid £725,000 for the former site of the hospital with the aim of turning it into a Community Health Village.[10] In March 2011, the then Minister for Health, Michael McGimpsey, approved plans for the start of construction of a new Community Treatment and Care Centre and Day Care facility in the grounds of the Community Health Village. This new facility, which will join the already relocated Banbridge Group Surgery, will cost an estimated £16.5 million and be home to around 220 staff.[11]

Environmental profile[edit]

Since the late 1990s more and more attention has been paid both by the local council and residents to enhancing the district’s environmental profile. Over the past decade Banbridge district has repeatedly recorded one of the highest levels of recycling in Northern Ireland. In 2009–2010, for example, almost 52% of household waste was recycled/composted. In June 2009, a bring-and-buy reuse shop, Restore, was also opened by the local council in an effort to reduce waste in the district. In May 2012 the council beat Warwickshire County Council and Cardiff City Council to win the best Local Authority Recycling Initiative at the ninth annual Awards for Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management.[12]

In 2007 a biodiversity audit was carried out and in late 2007 a biodiversity action plan was published.[13] Like the rest of Northern Ireland, woodlands make up only a small percentage of the district’s land cover (according to the Forestry Commission only 6.5% of Northern Ireland was forested in 2010).[14] In recent years public funds have been committed to improving access to and the quality of outdoor spaces, including for example Solitude Park in Banbridge, the Newry Canal Towpath which runs through the western part of the district, and Slieve Croob taking in the Legananny Dolmen and the Finnis souterrain (known locally as Binder's Cove). Given the unfavourable topography, the district is not currently home to any wind turbines, but it was announced in May 2010 that a biogas site would be built.[15]

Educational profile[edit]

Banbridge District lies within the Southern Education and Library Board and is home to thirty-one publicly funded educational establishments.[16] This includes: three pre-primary nurseries; twenty-one primary schools (of which ten are “controlled” primaries, one is a “grant-maintained integrated” primary, and the other ten are “maintained” primaries); five post-primary institutions (of which one is a maintained secondary, two are controlled secondary schools, one is a controlled grammar school, and one is a grant-maintained integrated school). There is also a special needs school in Banbridge catering for pupils aged five to nineteen, which lies adjacent to one of six campuses belonging to the Southern Regional College.

Sports and community sector[edit]

According to information collected by the local council, over 200 community groups and more than 80 sports clubs operate in the Banbridge District.[17] In all probability these figures represent a conservative estimate of the vibrancy and diversity of social capital in the local area as the council’s directory of community groups and sports clubs includes some but not all of the many different youth, sports, and other types of groups and clubs that meet under the auspices of local churches.

Arts and culture profile[edit]

Local government funding for the arts in the district is comparatively very low. In the financial year 2003–2004 the local council spent £1.23 per capita on the arts, which covers arts development and support, as well as spending on theatres and public entertainment. This compared to a mean Northern Ireland per-capita spend of £7.70, putting Banbridge District in 22nd place out of the 26 local councils.[18] By 2006–2007, the mean per-capita spending on the arts by the council had risen to £3.38, but this compared to a Northern Ireland average of £8.44, putting the council at fifth from the bottom of Northern Ireland’s 26 local authorities.[19]

The two main arts venues in the district are the Iveagh Cinema and the F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio.[20][21] The £3-million cinema, which opened in May 2004, is home to a 300-seater screen that was specially designed and built to double up as a theatre facility for live performances, plays, and arts events. The F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio, opened in September 2008, houses the contents of the London studio of F. E. McWilliam, a sculpture garden of McWilliam's work, as well as providing a dedicated gallery space for temporary exhibitions.

District council[edit]

The district is divided into three electoral areas: Banbridge, Knockiveagh and Dromore, which between them currently return 17 members. Elections of the whole council are usually held every four years and are conducted under the proportional representation single transferable vote system. Notably, Banbridge District Council was the only council controlled by one party (the UUP) from its creation in 1973 until the year 2000[22] when the DUP gained a seat in a by-election in Dromore.[23] Following the May 2011 local-government elections, the UUP retook its position from the DUP as the largest party on the council, winning seven of the 17 seats available. This was one of the few gains made by the UUP in either the local or Assembly elections of that year. Six of the 17 councillors elected in 2011 are women. At 56 percent, turnout in the 2011 elections was the lowest it had been since Banbridge Council was formed in 1973.

In the civic year 2011–2012 UUP councillors Joan Baird and Carol Black are serving as the head and deputy head of the council. This is the first time in the history of Banbridge Council that the positions of chairman and vice-chairman have been held by women.[24]

Election results[edit]

Elections of the entire council are held every four years. The number of seats won by each party is shown below.[25] An election was due in 2009, but this was delayed until 2011 so as to accommodate the completion a local-government reform programme aimed at reducing the number of council areas from 26 to 11.[26] The proposed amalgamation was abandoned in 2010, and so the 2011 elections returned members for the original 26 councils.[27]

Party 1973 1977 1981 1985 1989 1993 1997 2001 2005 2011
UUP 8 8 8 8 9 10 9 7 5 7
DUP 0 3 4 3 2 2 3 5 6 5
SDLP 1 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 2
SF 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Alliance 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1
Other Unionist 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Independent 3 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 0
Total seats 15 15 15 15 15 17 17 17 17 17
Female councillors - - - - - - - 3 7 6
Turnout (incl. spoilt ballots) 71.34 63.62 72.43 67.17 65.78 62.05 57.57 69.60 63.45 56.42

Dromore by-election, 2008[edit]

In late 2007 UUP Councillor Tyrone Howe resigned due to work commitments.[28] The resulting by election was the first electoral test for Traditional Unionist Voice.[29] Against expectations,[30] the UUP held the seat.[31]

Dromore By-Election – 14 February 2008
Party Candidate Count 1 Count 2 Count 3 Count 4 Count 5
DUP Paul Stewart 1069 1074 1127 1178 1508
UUP Carol Black 912 937 1119 1194 1571
TUV Keith Harbinson 739 742 801 828 -828
Alliance David Griffin 357 479 -479
Sinn Féin Paul Gribben 350 507 567 -567
SDLP John Drake 290 -290
Green (NI) Helen Corry 59 -59
Electorate=9688, valid=3776, spoiled=17, quota=1889

Parliamentary and assembly representation[edit]

In elections for the Westminster Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly the district is split between the Upper Bann (Ballydown, Banbridge West, Edenderry, Fort, Gilford, Lawrencetown, Loughbrickland, Seapatrick, The Cut), the Lagan Valley (Dromore North, Dromore South, Gransha and Quilly) and the South Down (Ballyward, Bannside, Katesbridge and Rathfriland) constituencies.[32]

Review of local government[edit]

As part of the review of public administration in Northern Ireland begun in 2002, plans were developed to merge Banbridge District Council with neighbouring council areas. According to the first seven-council model, announced in late 2005, it was proposed that Banbridge District should be merged with three other councils (Armagh, Craigavon and Newry and Mourne). In June 2007 a second, 11-council reform proposal was announced according to which most of the area now covered by Banbridge District would be merged with Armagh City and District Council and Craigavon Borough Council. While some aspects of the review of public administration are proceeding that will affect the character of local councils in Northern Ireland, for example the transfer of the majority of planning functions from central government to district councils,[33] the plans for local-government amalgamation have been put (perhaps indefinitely) on hold.

Local media[edit]

Currently the district is served by four local newspapers: the Banbridge Chronicle (established 1870), the Dromore Leader, the Banbridge Leader, and the County Down Outlook (established 1940). A year-round community radio station, 102.4 Shine FM, also broadcasts from Banbridge. Since 2007, a second community radio station, called fUSe FM, based in Rathfriland has also been operating, though up to now it has run for a limited number of days each year.[34]

Banbridge district and the Troubles[edit]

Like all other parts of Northern Ireland, Banbridge District was not unaffected by the Troubles. Between 1969 and 2001 twelve individuals (six Catholic, six Protestant) lost their lives in the district as a result of the Troubles: Patrick Campbell in 1973, Joseph Toland in 1975, William, Elizabeth, and Noleen Herron, and Barry O’Dowd in 1976, Robert Harrison in 1977, Alan McCrum in 1982, John Bell in 1985, Terence Delaney in 1988, and Patrick Feeny and Loughlin Maginn in 1989.[35] During the Troubles two bombs exploded in the district, both in Banbridge. The first was in 1982, as a result of which Alan McCrum died. Two weeks before the Omagh bombing, on 1 August 1998, a second car bomb planted by the Real IRA exploded in Banbridge town centre. While this second bomb caused a great deal of structural damage, no one was killed.


Scarva railway station is on the Dublin-Belfast railway line and is often passed at speed by the Enterprise. The Enterprise runs between Belfast Central, Portadown then fast to Newry and on via principal stations to Dublin Connolly. Northern Ireland Railways however operate a service from Newry calling at local stations including Poyntzpass and Scarva to Portadown and additional stations to Belfast Great Victoria Street.


  1. ^ a b "Council Profile". Banbridge District Council. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Ferguson’s Irish Linen.
  3. ^ BBC Online news story about closure of shoe factory in Banbridge.
  4. ^ The Outlet website.
  5. ^ BBC Online news story about Tesco.
  6. ^ Asda in Banbridge website.
  7. ^ a b Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings Data Set.
  8. ^ Claimant Count Annual Averages.
  9. ^ GP Registrations data set.
  10. ^ Report on The Management of Surplus Land and Property in the Health Estate, p. 23.
  11. ^ Banbridge District Council press release.
  12. ^ Banbridge Crowned Top UK Council for Best Recycling Initiative.
  13. ^ Banbridge District Council Biodiversity Audit.
  14. ^ 2010 Forestry Commission Annual Report.
  15. ^ NI Electricity press release.
  16. ^ List of schools in the SELB.
  17. ^ Banbridge District Council directories of community groups and sports clubs.
  18. ^ Arts Council of Northern Ireland Local Authority Arts Expenditure Survey, published August 2007 .
  19. ^ Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure report on the Committee’s Inquiry into the funding of the arts in Northern Ireland.
  20. ^ Iveagh Movie Studios official website
  21. ^ Official website of the F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio.
  22. ^ Banbridge election results.
  23. ^ Dromore 2000 by-election result
  24. ^ "Baird and Black Take Top Council Posts". Banbridge District Council. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  25. ^ Ark Elections Data Set.
  26. ^ Northern Ireland elections are postponed, BBC News, April 25, 2008, accessed April 27, 2008
  27. ^ "The executive fails to agree a deal on council reform". BBC News. 15 June 2010. Archived from the original on 18 June 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  28. ^ Rugby star gives up his council seat – Belfast Today
  29. ^ Tuv'S Harbinson Pledges To Do His Best For Locals – Dromore Today
  30. ^ No love lost in Valentine poll – Belfast Today
  31. ^ UUP take Dromore council seat – Belfast Today
  32. ^ Statutory Instrument 2008 No. 1486 (section Schedule) The Parliamentary Constituencies (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 (Coming into force 25 June 2008)
  33. ^ Northern Ireland Department of the Environment Reform Programme update
  34. ^ County Down Outlook story on fUSe FM
  35. ^ "Sutton Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland". CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet). Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 

See also[edit]