Counting resumes in Northern Ireland following local government elections

Counting has resumed for a second day in Northern Ireland following the local government elections.

Around a third of the 462 seats will be filled today before the final make-up of the region’s 11 councils can be revealed.

The first day of the count saw gains for the DUP and the centralist Alliance Party, while the Ulster Unionists suffered some losses.

Local elections
Local elections

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party had had a very good day.

“I am delighted with some of our results west of the Bann, we are taking extra new seats in places where we haven’t done before, and pleased that a lot of our sitting councillors have been returned, but we have also got some very good fresh blood coming through,” he said.

Amongst the DUP’s successes was the election of their first openly gay candidate, Alison Bennington, at Antrim and Newtownabbey Council.

Although she received warm congratulations from many of her party colleagues, former DUP health minister Jim Wells said his former leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, would be “aghast”.

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

At the start of Saturday’s count, the DUP were leading the pack with 81 seats, ahead of Sinn Fein on 74, the UUP on 57, the SDLP on 42 and Alliance on 36.

Local elections
Local elections

Later, a former Sinn Fein MP who resigned after angering relatives of 10 Protestants shot dead in a sectarian massacre will discover later whether he has won a council seat.

Barry McElduff is standing for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in the local government poll.

He stepped down last year after an outcry prompted by him posting a video of himself balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head.

Barry McElduff Twitter post
Barry McElduff Twitter post

It was put on his Twitter account on the anniversary of the Kingsmills atrocity.

Ten workmen were shot dead by republicans in Co Armagh on January 5 1976.

The contest was dominated by early gains in the greater Belfast area for the Alliance Party and Green Party, solid performances from Sinn Fein and the DUP and a slump in support for the Ulster Unionists.

Of the smaller parties, the Progressive Unionists suffered a blow in Belfast with the loss of Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston, while People Before Profit gained a seat with Fiona Ferguson.

It's a new day for People Before Profit. And it's a new voice for Socialist politics in this city. Fiona Ferguson has defied the odds and taken a seat in Oldpark. An incredible achievement. Things are about to shake up on Belfast City Council!

— South Belfast PBP (@sbelfastpbp) May 3, 2019

The son of a prison officer shot dead by dissident republicans in 2012 was also elected for the DUP.

Kyle Black’s father David died following a motorway drive-by shooting.

Local elections
Local elections

In Ards and North Down Council, Tom Smith, deselected as a DUP councillor after he voted to light up a council building in rainbow colours, retained his seat as an independent.

In Londonderry in the far west, the nationalist SDLP’s Mary Durkan was elected. The barrister is the sister of Stormont Assembly member Mark H Durkan.

The north-west city also saw Anne McCloskey become the first candidate from the anti-abortion all-Ireland Aontu party to be elected.

Local elections
Local elections

In Belfast, Ulster Unionist councillor Sonia Copeland dedicated her victory to community worker, Ian Ogle, who was stabbed to death on a street in East Belfast in January.

In Antrim and Newtownabbey a former DUP mayor was returned with an increased vote following his recent conviction for drink-driving.

Thomas Hogg served a five-month suspension from the council earlier this year.

Local elections
Local elections

He said: “I am overwhelmed to have been elected with 999 votes – my largest ever.”

The council election is being conducted by single transferable vote, a proportional representation system.

A fresh bid to restore Stormont’s moribund powersharing institutions is to begin next week following the fatal shooting of journalist Lyra McKee, 29, by dissident republicans in Londonderry in April.

The last Democratic Unionist/Sinn Fein-led powersharing coalition imploded amid a row about a botched renewable energy scheme.

The rift between the erstwhile partners-in-government subsequently widened to take in disputes over the Irish language, same-sex marriage and the legacy of the Troubles.

A total of 819 candidates are standing for 462 available seats across 11 council areas in Northern Ireland.