Irish Republican News · May 10, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
SF gains 12 council seats, becomes largest party in Belfast

The balance of power at Belfast City Council has shifted, with Sinn Fein leapfrogging the DUP to become the largest party.

Sinn Fein’s support has spread to see the party take seats today in the leafy Malone Road area of the city (Balmoral), as well as taking a second seat in the Castle electoral area in the north.

Publisher Mairtin O Muilleoir made the breakthrough for the party in Balmoral, while Tierna Cunningham and Mary Ellen Campbell were both elected for the party in Castle. Last night, Niall O Donnghaile took a key seat for the party in the east of the city.

Peter Robinson’s DUP failed to capitalise on a collapse in the UUP vote in Belfast, with the smaller, more moderate unionist Alliance party instead gaining two seats in one of its best ever local election campaigns across the North.

Overall, the party make-up of Belfast City Council is as follows: Sinn Fein 16 (up 2), DUP 15 (no change), SDLP 8 (no change), UUP 3 (down 4), Alliance 6 (up 2), PUP 2 (no change). One independent, unionist Frank McCoubrey, was also re-elected.

As a result of their gains, the nationalist parties are now just two seats shy of securing an overall majority on Belfast City council, although Alliance have again claimed the balance of power between the two traditional voting blocs.

Across the North, it was the UUP and SDLP which lost seats, with Sinn Fein, Alliance and independents boosting their quota.

The final result of the local elections is as follows:

DUP has won 175 seats (down 7), Sinn Fein 138 (up 12), the Ulster Unionist Party 99 (down 16), the SDLP 87 (down 14) and Alliance 44 (up 14). Others have won 39 seats (up 9).

According to one estimate, the UUP have lost almost exactly half their seats in the greater Belfast area, down from 69 to 35, but have polled somewhat better in rural areas, particularly west of the Bann.

Sinn Fein saw important gains across the North, including a second seat on unionist-dominated Newtownabbey, Banbridge and Ballymena councils to go with their breakthrough seat on Larne council. There was also gains for the party on councils in Antrim, Armagh, Lisburn, Newry and Mourne, Cookstown, and Magherafelt, where it won overall control. The party gained two seats on Craigavon council, but lost one in Moyle.

Following gains in the Assembly election, the DUP will be disappointed not to have made further gains at the expense of the UUP and ended up actually losing seats, mainly due to the success of Alliance at local level.

The DUP notably lost overall control of its citadel, the scandal-plagued Castlereagh Council east of Belfast. However, DUP coucil members and their unionist rivals in the UUP immediately and somewhat bizarrely declared a coalition to control the council.

Elsewhere, prominent ‘dissident’ republican Gary Donnelly fell 200 votes short of winning a seat on Derry council, although another independent republican, Bernice Swift, won a seat on Fermanagh District Council. Former Sinn Fein councillor Padraig McShane retained his seat on Moyle council.

There was also a first seat for a Fianna Fail councillor north of the border. Terry Andrews was elected to Down District Council in the Rowallane electoral area.

A full roundup of the election results in our regular full issue later.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News