Irish Republican News · May 9, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Local election setbacks for UUP; others poll well
Local election setbacks for UUP; others poll well

Electoral woes have continued for the Ulster Unionist Party in the local elections in the North.

Counting to fill almost 600 local government positions in 26 councils is taking place today across the Six Counties. Thursday’s was the first council election to be held in the region since 2005.

The DUP, Sinn Fein, and Alliance Party are all doing well, while the SDLP are not showing losses so far, despite a lacklustre performance in the North’s Assembly elections (also held on Thursday).

With less than halve the electoral areas in city declared, Sinn Fein is looking likely to at least retain its representation on Belfast City Council, with a gain possible in the Pottinger area of east Belfast. There, Sinn Fein’s Niall O Donnghaile is hoping to take advantage of a weak UUP performance to retake a council seat and again secure representation for the nationalist Short Strand enclave at City Hall.

In the Oldpark electoral area in the north of the city, Conor Maskey was elected on the first count for Sinn Fein, along with the DUP’s Ian Crozier. With the help of transfers from the Alliance Party, the SDLP is likely to prevent Sinn Fein picking up a fourth seat here. However, the UUP are likely to lose a seat to the DUP, as well as in the Victoria electoral area in the far east of the city.

eirigi’s Padriac MacOitir polled strongly in the Upper Falls, securing over 1400 votes, but good vote management by Sinn Fein kept him out of the last seat. Sinn Fein will take four out of five seats here, while the SDLP’s Tim Attwood has also held onto his seat.

Outside Belfast, the DUP was dominating the polling in North Down, with three seats already filled, and topped the poll in Omagh, and losses have been predicted for the UUP here.

There was better news for the UUP in Fermanagh, where Robert Irvine topped the poll and was elected on the first count in Enniskillen. Sinn Fein and the DUP looked likely to retain their two seats, with the last seat still uncertain.

In Newry, former Sinn Fein Assembly member Davy Hyland, who was standing as an independent republican, was elected on the first count to Newry and Mourne district council. Sinn Fein is competing with the SDLP to retain its representation here.

EXECUTIVE DEBATE

Meanwhile, efforts to reform the Six-County executive are under way following Saturday’s Assembly results.

There have been suggestions that the Alliance Party may at least temporarily hold two Ministerial posts in the Stormont Executive on the basis that last year’s agreement at Hiilsborough, under which party leader David Ford was named as Minister for Justice, should continue until next year.

This is being opposed by the Ulster Unionist Party, who have pointed out that, under the original d’Hondt process for the formation of the power-sharing Executive, Alliance has only enough seats in the Assembly for one Ministerial position.

Mr Ford has not yet confirmed that his party will seek both seats, but indicated his party was “entitled” to name one under the d’Hondt process.

“We have a set of rules and according to those rules at the moment, it looks like Alliance is entitled to one of the other ten ministries and then I might or might not be elected as justice minister,” he added.

Mr Ford said there were “huge vagaries” in the D’Hondt system. “We’ve seen it in every one of the assemblies as to how it would work out in different ways,” he added.

“I don’t think it’s a particularly proportional system. It’s not my preferred choice but it’s what the constitution says.”

There is speculation that the Ulster Unionists might ensure they retain their second ministry by bringing David McClarty, who was elected as an independent, back into the party fold.

He was previously an Ulster Unionist Assembly member but fell out with the local constituency party after he was de-selected.

He has refused to be drawn on whether he will be tempted back into the UUP fold, a discussion coloured by widespread condemnation of party leader Tom Elliott’s sectarian outburst following the election count on Saturday.

After his East Derry victory Mr McClarty, described his treatment by the party as “shocking” but has since held what he described as “amicable talks” with the UUP party leader.

However Mr McClarty said they did not discuss the comments Mr Elliott made about Sinn Fein during the conversation.

UUP leader Tom Elliott had described Sinn Fein as ‘scum’ at an election count in Omagh.

Over the weekend Mr McClarty distanced himself from the comments and said that they were not indicative of the kind of “progressive unionism” he believed in.

© 2011 Irish Republican News