Nominations close for May local elections
Nominations close for May local elections


The largest ever number of nationalist candidates are standing in council elections in the north of Ireland, will all three main nationalist parties fielding additional candidates.

Nominations closed on Monday for the poll on May 18, the first electoral test in the Six Counties since last year’s Assembly election.

A total of 462 council seats are to be filled across 11 council areas. The DUP is currently the largest party in local government, with 122 seats to 105 for Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin is fielding 162, an increase of seven, the SDLP 86, an increase of 1, and Aontú are fielding 19, an increase of three.

Meanwhile, there has been a sharp reduction of 15% in unionist candidates compared to 2019 as a result of 20 fewer candidates being fielded by the DUP and 16 fewer by the UUP.

Speaking at the Titanic Hotel in Belfast during an election candidates’ launch this week, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald believes her party has the opportunity to become the largest in councils, ahead of the DUP.

Ms McDonald said one of the themes in the election was the frustration from voters at the continual DUP block on the operation of the powersharing institutions at Stormont.

Mrs McDonald said her party would be running 162 candidates, more than 40% of whom will be women.

She said: “That includes areas in which Sinn Féin has never had an elected representative or indeed a candidate.

“We are very hopeful that we can make a breakthrough in councils that have no or have very little Sinn Féin representation.

“That includes North Down and Ards Council where Noel Sands can make history by taking the first ever Sinn Féin council seat in the Ards peninsula.”

Mrs McDonald said the party was aiming to replicate the result at last year’s Assembly election where Sinn Féin overtook the DUP for the first time.

She said: “I think there is also a sense that the DUP have enjoyed the patience of others for some time now. I think people are fair and people are reasonable, but there is undoubtedly now a frustration at the fact that we still have no government here in the north.

“We have raised before our concern that there would be further drift, so I think one of the big messages in this election campaign coming from people of all political persuasions will be get back to work, the time is now.

“We hope the DUP hears that message.”

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said the election was an opportunity to “send a signal” to the DUP.

She said: “Since day one after the Assembly election, we have been ready to form the Executive and work with others to deliver the real change that people went to the polls and voted for.

“It is unacceptable that one party continues to block the formation of an Executive and stall progress on the important work that needs to be done.

“The election on May 18 is an opportunity to send a clear signal.”

Speaking in advance of his party’s launch at The Devenish in West Belfast last week, leader of Aontú and Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín said the north of Ireland “is trapped in political dysfunction”.

“Key public services such as health, housing, education and transport are corroding by the day while the well paid establishment political parties do nothing. Public service staff are either leaving their sectors or striking. The very fabric of our societies is fraying.

“The Cost of Living crisis is pushing the old and infirm into poverty and yet Sinn Féin, the DUP and the SDLP have imposed massive Rates increases on the people. Throughout all of this the democratic institutions of the people have been subverted by the arrogance of the DUP”.

He said only Aontú “had been consistent in terms of reform” and there was “real momentum” behind the campaign.

“We have called for the institutions of the north to be reformed to prevent the Executive being crashed, to prevent one party stopping the Executive being reformed.

“We have made this argument in the Dáil, in London and in Washington DC. Aontú is the only party to draft legislation to cut the salaries of the MLAs to the Minimum Wage while they refuse to do their jobs.

“We are the only party seeking the devolution of economic levers from London to Belfast to allow the elected representatives of this country actually help fix this broken society”.

“We have successfully tabled bills in the Dáil to allow Northern MPs to sit and speak in the Dáil and in Oireachtas Committees, to create a Commission of Inquiry into British Collusion in killings in Ireland and to force the southern government to take the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights over the Legacy Bill.”

There are also 16 candidates for People before Profit, seven candidates for the Workers Party, two each for the 1RSP and the Socialist Party, while there are some 20 independent nationalists, including a dozen or so with a background in republicanism.

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2023 Irish Republican News