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Lisburn and Castlereagh: Blind water-skiing champ triumphs

By Adrian Rutherford

A three-time blind water-ski world champion was elected as a DUP councillor as unionists continued their domination in Lisburn and Castlereagh.

Janet Gray, who lost her sight at the age of 21, got in on the final count in the Downshire East ward.

A newcomer to politics, she was announced as a DUP candidate earlier this year, months after addressing the party's autumn conference.

Also elected in Downshire East were Uel Mackin and Luke Poots (both DUP) and the Ulster Unionists' James Baird.

Alliance's Aaron McIntyre held off the challenge of NI21 candidate Christina Dobson for the final seat.

Downshire East was one of four district electoral areas declared yesterday. Another three – Castlereagh South, Lisburn North and Lisburn South – will be completed today.

So far, with 21 of the 40 councillors elected the DUP leads the way with 11 representatives, followed by the UUP (five) and Alliance (three). The SDLP and TUV have one councillor each.

The DUP's Thomas Beckett made history by becoming the first councillor elected to the new body. Both he and Ulster Unionist candidate Robbie Butler were elected at the first count in the Killultagh area.

They were followed by William Leathem and James Tinsley, both of the DUP, and the SDLP's Pat Catney.

The Castlereagh East count was completed by 7.15pm.

The DUP took three seats, with David Drysdale, Tommy Jeffers, and Sharon Skillen elected.

Alliance's Tim Morrow, the UUP's Hazel Legge and Andrew Girvan of the TUV completed the contingent.

The Downshire West count was completed soon afterwards with Owen Gawith of the Alliance Party elected for the first time.

Also elected were Jim Dillon and Alex Redpath (both UUP), and DUP duo Allan Ewart and John Palmer.

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