DUP retains grip on council, but Alliance and SF are big winners

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IT WAS just before 10.30 on Monday night (May 9) when the final make-up of the new Newtownabbey Council was eventually decided.

After a series of lengthy counts throughout the day at the Valley Leisure Centre, the DUP’s Jackie Mann scraped home to take the 25th and final seat to be declared.

Overall, the DUP retained its grip on the council chamber, returning 12 of their 13 candidates successfully - the same number of seats they secured in 2005.

“It’s been a very successful election for the DUP. We have managed our vote well in all areas. The loss of the third seat in Antrim Line is probably down to demographic change in that area, but we were pleased to pick up a fourth seat in Macedon,” said a delighted Paul Girvan.

In contrast it was another calamitous day for the Ulster Unionist Party, whose risky election strategy saw them lose experienced councillors Vera McWilliam (Ballyclare) and Barbara Gilliland (University).

It was a bad day too for the borough’s outgoing Deputy Mayor, Tommy Kirkham. The independent Macedon candidate polled just 396 first preferences and was eliminated after the fifth count.

There was no doubt who the big winners on the day were - the Alliance Party and Sinn Fein both increased their representation within the council chamber.

The three sitting Alliance councillors - Tom Campbell, Billy Webb and Lynn Frazer - all retained their seats. And they will be joined at Mossley Mill by John Blair, who topped the poll in Antrim Line, and Ballyclare man Pat McCudden.

Mr Campbell described it as “an excellent day for Alliance”.

“I think this shows the benefit of hard work and constructive politics,” he said. “I think the clear message from the electorate is that they want to see political parties working together for the common good, and that’s what we will do.”

Sinn Fein, who have been without a Newtownabbey Council representative since the resignation of Briege Meehan last year, took two seats in the Antrim Line area, and came close to snatching a third in Macedon.

Glengormley woman Marie Mackessy was elected on the first count, while her party colleague Gerard O’Reilly was eventually elected below the quota after six counts.

“It’s a very good day for Sinn Fein in Newtownabbey and North Belfast,” Miss Mackessy commented. “The people of this area have come out and elected two Sinn Fein representatives to council and we are going to work hard to do everything we can for them.”

There were contrasting fortunes for two of the youngest candidates hoping for a place on the council, as 23-year-old Thomas Hogg secured a seat in Macedon for the DUP, while 19-year-old UUP candidate Ben Coote was eliminated after five counts in Antrim Line.

DUP councillors Paul Girvan and Paula Bradley, who also secured seats at Stormont in the Assembly election, could now have the option of resigning their council seats and co-opting two other party members onto the local authority.

However, alderman Girvan stressed that he does not consider holding a dual mandate so-called ‘double jobbing’, and said that no decisions have yet been made.