IRSP falls short by half a vote; SF’s Kelly injured in crash
IRSP falls short by half a vote; SF’s Kelly injured in crash

Almost two-thirds of council posts in the Six Counties have been declared so far this evening.

The trend of the Assembly election has been largely confirmed, with the DUP and Sinn Fein well ahead of their unionist and nationalist rivals, the UUP and SDLP respectively.

Sinn Fein appears to be taking seats from the SDLP in rural areas, while in urban areas, the DUP is boosting its representation at the expense of the UUP.

One outgoing Down SDLP councillor, Peter Fitzpatrick has now called for party leader Margaret Ritchie to go, while UUP leader Tom Elliott is continuing to defy pressure to resign following even heavier election losses and a notorious sectarian outburst on Saturday.

The closest result of the local elections so far was in Strabane, where Paul Gallagher of the tiny Irish Republican Socialist Party appeared to beat an SDLP candidate for a seat on Strabane council by one vote -- only to see it controversially overturned on a recount.

Elsewhere, Oliver McMullan gained a seat for Sinn Fein on Larne council, while Niall O Donnghaile has retaken a seat for Sinn Fein in Pottinger in east Belfast.

Sinn Fein also appears likely to gain overall control in Magherafelt council in County Derry.

However, Sinn Fein has missed out on holding all five seats in the Lower Falls in west Belfast, with the SDLP regaining a toe-hold in the electoral area after being shut out in 2005.

Despite Sinn Fein’s reputation for skilled vote management, Briege Brownlee’s vote had lagged her four colleagues, and her 70-vote advantage was overhauled as a result of adverse transfers from no less than four different socialist candidates.

There were also mixed fortunes this evening for independent republicans. Former Sinn Fein councillor, Barry Monteith, who stood as an independent Republican candidate, won a seat on Dungannon and South Tyrone council, while another former SF councillor and Assembly member, Gerry McHugh, lost his seat on Fermanagh council.

Former DUP Assembly member Paul Berry, who was suspended from the party in 2005, was elected as an independent councillor in Armagh on the first count.

Another former DUP man, Roy Gillespie, secured the first council seat for the hardline TUV in Ballymena. The SDLP’s Declan O’Loan, who lost his assembly seat at the weekend, was also elected on the second count to Ballymena Council.

In another setback for the DUP, the party lost overall control of Castlereagh council, but looks to have strengthened its representation on Belfast City Council.

Meanwhile, prominent loyalist and former UDA representative, Tommy Kirkham, lost his seat on Newtownabbey council, where he had been deputy Mayor. The UVF-linked PUP retained its single seat on Belfast Council in Pottinger.

In Derry, counting was proceeding at an unbelievable slow pace, with less than a hundred votes being counted per hour.

Counting in all council areas is not expected to conclude until tomorrow.

The following is the current state of the parties:

DUP 114 (182 in 2005)
Sinn Fein 92 (126 in 2005)
UUP 52 (115 in 2005)
SDLP 49 (101 in 2005)
Alliance 25 (30 in 2005)
TUV 4 (none in 2005)
Green 1 (3 in 2005)


Senior Sinn Fein member and Junior Minister Gerry Kelly has been taken to hospital after he was injured when a car driven by robbery suspects hit a PSNI vehicle and four others in Belfast.

The North Belfast Assembly member was not badly hurt after he was caught up in the accident this afternoon on a slip road of the M1 at Stockman’s Lane as he travelled from a local government count centre at the City Hall.

A shop on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast was robbed of money from the cash till at around 2.40pm and the getaway vehicle headed for the Malone Road, where it collided with a PSNI vehicle before hitting four other cars near the busy Stockman’s Lane roundabout.


Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has claimed it would be “symbolically significant” to see a party colleague take the Speaker’s position in the next Stormont Assembly.

It comes as the party decides which ministries it will be targeting come the first plenary session on Thursday.

“Let us say that we have a good idea of exactly what we’re going to do but, at this stage, it wouldn’t be sensible to make that public,” Mr McGuinness said.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams wouldn’t be drawn on the issue either, saying: “There’s very few negotiations are ever conducted publically and let’s not change that tradition - there are lots of traditions we should change, but that’s not one of them.”

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