Friday 23 August 2019

Alliance big winner in Northern Ireland local elections

City Hall, Belfast
City Hall, Belfast

Cate McCurry and Rebecca Black

There has been a surge in support for Northern Ireland's smaller parties in the local government elections. Alliance and the Greens topped the polls in many areas, picking up additional seats in a number of councils.

However, the political landscape in Northern Ireland stays much the same as the DUP remains the largest party, gaining 24.1pc first preference votes - up 1pc - leaving it with around 114 seats with more to be declared.

Sinn Fein suffered a dent to its support base with 23.2pc first preference votes - a drop of 0.8pc. It is expected to take around 100 council seats.

The son of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was elected to Belfast City Council. John Finucane was standing for Sinn Fein.

Unexpected victories and a surge in votes for the middle ground Alliance party saw its share of votes rise from 6.7pc to 11.5pc.

The Green Party and independents also made significant gains across the 11 councils.

The Ulster Unionist Party suffered some of its biggest causalities with the loss of high-profile Belfast councillor Jeff Dudgeon. In 1981, Mr Dudgeon took a legal challenge to Europe and helped bring the law on homosexuality in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

The SDLP also lost some of its seats after gaining 12pc of first preference votes - a drop of 1.6pc.

In Omagh, a former MP who resigned after angering relatives of 10 Protestants shot dead in a sectarian massacre won a council seat. Barry McElduff was forced to resign his Westminster seat last year amid an outcry after he posted a video of himself balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head. It was posted on his Twitter account on the anniversary of the Kingsmill atrocity, which saw 10 workmen murdered by republicans in South Armagh in 1976.

Elsewhere DUP leader Arlene Foster said she will consider comments made by former health minister Jim Wells about the DUP's first openly gay councillor in Northern Ireland.

Mr Wells said his former leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, would have been "aghast" at the decision to run gay DUP candidate Alison Bennington.

The DUP's founder once led a campaign to, in his words, "Save Ulster from Sodomy" and prevent the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Mrs Foster said Mr Wells should not have made the comments to the media.

In the Derry City electoral area, Independent republican councillor Gary Donnelly topped the poll in the Moor district. He is considered one of the public faces of dissident republicanism in Northern Ireland.

Donnelly's election just comes weeks after dissident republicans murdered journalist Lyra McKee in Derry.

Sunday Independent

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