Unionists set to dominate new council

The election count proceedings under way at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre. INBT22-208AC
The election count proceedings under way at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre. INBT22-208AC

The new Mid and East Antrim ‘Super Council’ will be unionists controlled with three quarters of its 40 seats occupied by DUP, TUV and UUP councillors.

The DUP secured the highest number of seats - 16, the UUP took nine and the TUV won five.

Sinn Fein and Alliance secured three seats apiece, two Independents were elected while UKIP took one seat and the SDLP also took one through Declan O’Loan in Ballymena.

The eligible electorate for Mid & East Antrim was 96,494 with total votes polled, 46,269 and valid votes 45,718. Percentage turnout was 47.9%.

In Bannside - the first of the three ‘Ballymena’ District Electoral Areas (DEAs) to be counted, the TUV’s Timothy Gaston topped the poll with 1212 votes.

Mr Gaston, a sitting councillor, said he believed his result in Bannside “sends out a very clear message”.

“In a stronghold for the DUP traditionally, a TUV man has topped the poll,” he said.

“This sends a signal to the rest of the country. Look where the DUP started and where the TUV started. Bannside has spoken,” said Mr Gaston who extended his thanks to former TUV councillor Roy Gillespie, who retired this year.

TUV leader Jim Allister said his party’s increasing foothold in the Mid & East Antrim area was “a product of strong solid work on behalf of the people of the constituency.”

Sinn Fein’s Patrice Hardy was elected in the second count of Bannside votes while DUP stalwart, Tommy Nicholl was elected on the fourth count. Mr Nicholl, 68, who has served 33 years on Ballymena Council said he was delighted to be returned for the ninth time.

The takers of Bannside’s other three seats were the DUP’s Billy Henry, Stewart McDonald (TUV) and William McNeilly (UUP). First past the post in Ballymena was sitting Independent Councillor James Henry who topped the poll with 1,042 votes. The other six seat takers elected were Donna Anderson (TUV), Audrey Wales (DUP), John Carson (DUP), Reuben Glover (DUP), Stephen Nicholl (UUP) and the SDLP’s Declan O’Loan.

Mr O’Loan, who reached the quota in the fifth count, was the only SDLP councillor to be elected.

“We always knew it was going to be a very unionist council,” he said. “In the new arena there is a smaller nationalist presence and a stronger TUV presence, which is a big concern, and in other councils too where there is a big majority of one sort or another and they decide locally they have autonomy and carry everyting in front of them in a very dominant way.

“That would be very dangerous politics. I would say from the outset that this is the biggest risk to the performance of this council,” he said.

First to be elected in The Braid - after reaching the quota on the third count - was sitting Councillor Beth Clyde of the DUP.

William McCaughey (DUP) followed in the fourth and subsequent counts saw seats taken by Brian Collins (TUV), DUP’s Beth Adger and Sam Hanna, Robin Cherry (UUP) who topped the poll in the Braid DEA with 961 first preference votes, and SF’s Paul Maguire.