Voters go to the polls in Northern Ireland amid powersharing impasse

Voters in Northern Ireland go to the polls on Thursday amid political impasse over Brexit and efforts to defrost the institutions at Stormont.

A total of 819 local government election candidates are standing across 11 council areas.

Among noteworthy races for seats will be Sinn Fein’s former West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff’s efforts to return from the political wilderness.

He was forced to step aside after offending the families of those shot dead by republicans at the height of the Troubles in Kingsmill in Co Armagh.

Barry McElduff
Barry McElduff (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr McElduff is running for a place on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in the far west.

In Newtownabbey, near Belfast, the DUP’s first openly gay candidate is seeking election.

Alison Bennington is standing for a party which has repeatedly vetoed same-sex marriage and holds strong Christian values.

The Democratic Unionists are the largest party in Northern Ireland which campaigned for Leave in the Brexit referendum.

They blocked Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts to secure a deal with the EU over concerns about the Irish border backstop.

This election could be an early indicator for how the parties fare in the European elections later this month.

It is also the first poll since gay journalist Lyra McKee, 29, was shot dead by dissident republicans during disturbances in Londonderry in April.

Her death prompted revulsion against the group blamed for the killing and a call by a Catholic priest for politicians to redouble efforts to restore devolved powersharing.

The Stormont Assembly and ministerial Executive have been suspended since early 2017.

Former Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in a row over the DUP’s handling of a botched green energy scheme.

Fresh negotiations are due to begin next week following Miss McKee’s death.

Local government powers chiefly concern services like bin collections and the setting of household tax rates.

Ballot boxes have been delivered to Northern Ireland’s most remote polling station.

They were taken by ferry to Rathlin Island off Co Antrim on Wednesday morning, escorted by an Electoral Office official.

There are 1,463 polling stations across Northern Ireland and they will open at 7am on Thursday and close at 10pm.

There will be overnight verification of unused ballot papers returned from the polling stations, with councils ready to begin counting on Friday morning at 8am.

The election is being conducted by Single Transferable Vote, a proportional representation system.

Votes are totalled and a quota (the number of votes required to win a seat) derived.

If a candidate achieves quota, he/she is elected and surplus votes transferred to other candidates.

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