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Alliance hoping for council gains


Naomi Long

Naomi Long

Naomi Long

The Alliance Party seem set for significant gains in Northern Ireland's council elections, with more losses for the Ulster Unionists.

While further counts take place on Tuesday, the pattern of the Assembly election results may be repeated, with the DUP and Sinn Fein dominating.

But the surge for Alliance, at the apparent expense of the UUP, was emerging as an early pattern as the first results were declared for the nearly 600 seats in the 26 council areas.

The DUP is likely to be celebrating Northern Ireland-wide gains but will lose overall control of Castlereagh Borough Council where Peter Robinson and his wife Iris were once its best known representatives.

Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long, who seized Mr Robinson's East Belfast seat in last year's general election, said her party was looking forward to further success on the back of its one-seat gain at the Assembly.

"It does look like a good election for Alliance, it's starting to look that way," she said. "It just looks like the strong performance for Alliance has read across to the local council, and perhaps may be even slightly better."

The Alliance Assembly gain puts it in contention for a new ministerial post at Stormont at the expense of the UUP.

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Ulster Unionists may have expected their councillors would have escaped the dip the party suffered in the Assembly poll but early unofficial tallies from the parties on Belfast City Council suggested the UUP could drop from nine seats to as few as three.

Once dominating Belfast's City Hall, the Ulster Unionists are on course to be relegated to fifth place in its party rankings.

Outgoing SDLP councillor Peter Fitzpatrick later called for the party leader Margaret Ritchie to step down. There have been losses for the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP.

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