Two County Down unionist councillors have joined the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Alan Lewis has defected from the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), while independent councillor, Henry Reilly, has also signed up.
DUP leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said it was a positive sign for the party in the Mournes.
Meanwhile, UUP leader Doug Beattie said that he was disappointed at losing a “much valued councillor and friend”.
Confirming the news, Sir Jeffrey said: “I am delighted to welcome Alan and Henry to the DUP.
“I have known Henry over many years and he has always been a dedicated representative, focused on delivering for the people of the Mournes, and dedicated to strengthening our place within the United Kingdom.”
Sir Jeffrey added: “Since his election in 2019 Alan has also been a fearless and hardworking representative, focused on uniting and strengthening unionism within South Down.”
On the leaving of the UUP councillor, Mr Beattie said: “I’m disappointed Alan Lewis has decided to leave the Ulster Unionist Party. He was a much valued councillor and friend, but that’s politics.
“We will look for a replacement to fight the Slieve Croob DEA in the forthcoming council elections, in the meantime we wish Alan well.”
South Down was once a problem for the DUP leadership and was often in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
It was the constituency where the deep divisions within the party last year were played out with resignations and defections.
But following the election of Diane Forsythe to the assembly, the party appears to have united.
Now it is adding two new councillors – Alan Lewis from the Ulster Unionists and Henry Reilly, the independent councillor who has a track record for moving between parties having previously been a member of the Ulster Unionists, UK Independent Party (UKIP) and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV).
The moves come just a week after Lisburn and Castlereagh councillor Simon Lee quit the Green party and joined the SDLP.
Both men are representatives on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
Mr Reilly, who has represented the Mournes area for more than two decades, said he has worked closely with DUP councillors in the last few years, particularly Glyn Hanna.
“I was pleased to offer Diane [Forsythe] my endorsement as a candidate for the assembly election in May and I have also welcomed the strong leadership offered by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and the DUP on the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said.
“I look forward to being part of that strong DUP team, not just in South Down, but across Northern Ireland.”
In 2021, the councillor was convicted of assaulting a female police officer but the convictions were quashed later that year .
Mr Lewis said the people he represents on the council “want to see a greater unionist society”.
“The election of Diane Forsythe as MLA for South Down has reinvigorated unionism within this part of Northern Ireland, and she has already established herself as an energetic and positive representative within the constituency,” he said.
“There were more than 12,500 unionist votes cast at the last assembly election in South Down and I believe this can be further built upon through a strong DUP team which I am looking forward to being part of”.
Mr Lewis was elected to the local council in 2019.