Belfast Telegraph

I am not a nationalist or a unionist, I am a socialist, says People Before Profit's new Belfast councillor Gerry Carroll

By Rebecca Black

A dark horse candidate who was once banned from Belfast city centre for taking part in student protests will now take his place at the City Hall.

Gerry Carroll split the Sinn Fein dominance of the Black Mountain ward, coming in third with 1,619 votes.

The activist, who was once banned from the centre of the city by the courts, spoke of his delight at being elected to its governing council.

"Media and commentators had completely written me off, but it just goes to show that if you know your area and you do the ground work, it is recognised," he said.

"There is a lot of anger in west Belfast at the minute over the situation at Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E, the privatisation of leisure centres and the Casement Park issues – those residents have been trampled on. This is where we are strong. I am not a nationalist or a unionist, I am a socialist. Belfast has a strong history of socialism and this is it coming back.

"I am going to be a thorn in the side of the council."

Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir was the first to be elected at Belfast City Hall yesterday.

He topped the poll in the Balmoral ward – a traditional SDLP stronghold – by one vote ahead of Claire Hanna.

He described the experience as very humbling, particularly attracting a large number of votes from people who would not normally back Sinn Fein.

"To top the poll and be the first elected is an even more special thrill," he said.

"What I want to do now is to make sure the super council is a super council, super for Belfast bringing in investment, jobs and reconciliation."

However, Mr O Muilleoir's deputy mayor was left waiting into the small hours to hear if he had retained his seat on the council.

Christopher Stalford (DUP) was vying with Jeffrey Dudgeon and Paula Bradshaw of Alliance for the last two seats.

And Tina McKenzie of NI21 saw her dream of a council seat crushed in Balmoral. She performed poorly from the outset, attracting just 256 votes in the first count and was later eliminated.

The PUP was celebrating after leader Billy Hutchinson topped the poll in the Court ward with 1,674 votes and was elected on the first count.

Mr Hutchinson, who was co-opted on to the council in February to replace Hugh Smyth, said he had been written off by others but that he had been confident that he would be a poll-topper.

"I had been written off by commentators, but here I am topping the poll," he said.

Elsewhere, the Alliance Party's Michael Long gave a strong performance topping the poll in Lisnasharragh – one of the new areas to come in to Belfast from Castlereagh, where Mr Long was previously elected.

Alliance also looks set to gain its first councillor in the Castle ward, Nuala McAllister.

The Ulster Unionist Party gained a seat when Chris McGimpsey – a former Belfast councillor – was elected in Lisnasharragh.

And apart from a strong performance from Claire Hanna in Balmoral, the SDLP's vote appeared to have dropped.

The count appeared to move slowly yesterday with the first ward to declare a final result not coming until 10.20pm, when five Sinn Fein councillors – Janice Austin, Ciaran Beattie, Arder Carson, Steven Corr and Emma Groves – were elected along with Tim Attwood of the SDLP and Mr Carroll.

Belfast Telegraph

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