Early results indicate openly gay DUP candidate looks set to seize seat

The results of the first sweep of results are for the election in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council – and show that Alison Bennington has taken 856 first-preference votes.

The prospective councillor, who is a lesbian, was the second-ranked of the DUP candidates who were standing in the seat.

Alison Bennington

Alison Bennington

It followed early indications from both Alliance and DUP sources that she should indeed be able to secure enough votes to secure a seat.

There has been internal disquiet over her appearance on the list of candidates, with Jim Wells (DUP MLA for South Down, who had the party whip suspended from him last year over an internal row) saying it showed a “very worrying” shift in DUP position, and long-standing DUP figure John Carson saying the nomination was “not in my name”.

For her own part, the candidate has indicated her sexuality is a private matter. She has so far declined interviews.

The first-preference vote count for her district of Glengormley Urban (on the northern edge of Belfast) is as follows: Julian McGrath, Alliance, 1,345; Phillip Brett, DUP group leader, 1,099; Noreen McClelland, SDLP, 992; Michael Goodman, SF, 904; Alison Bennington, 856; Samantha Burns, DUP, 373; Paul Veronica, Greens, 341; and Michael Maguire, UUP, 337.

McGrath and Brett were duly elected.

There are several more sweeps left as tranfer votes are counted and distributed across the candidate list.

But councillor Brett told the News Letter that the DUP expects there to be enough transfer votes to see Alison Bennington elected on the second or third count.

In an unusual twist to today’s vote, the count is taking place in the Valley Leisure Centre – a venue which she used to help run, when she was formerly leisure services manager at the council in Newtownabbey.