Belfast Telegraph

Local Election 2019

SDLP in jubilant mood as party profits from Sinn Fein's Derry loss

SDLP’s Mary Durkan, who topped the poll for Foyleside ward, with party leader Colum Eastwood
SDLP’s Mary Durkan, who topped the poll for Foyleside ward, with party leader Colum Eastwood
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Sinn Fein's loss of three seats in the Derry and Strabane Council area sent shockwaves around the Foyle Arena count centre on the first day of the count for the local elections.

Former mayor Maoliosa McHugh, Caoimhe McKnight and Eric McGinley will not be returning to the council chamber for Sinn Fein when normal business resumes.

Visit our Election hub and check out the results as they come in from each council: Antrim and Newtownabbey --- Ards and North Down --- Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon --- Belfast --- Causeway Coast and Glens --- Derry and Strabane --- Fermanagh and Omagh --- Lisburn and Castlereagh --- Mid and East Antrim --- Mid Ulster --- Newry, Mourne and Down

The SDLP's Gus Hastings, independent Warren Robinson and the DUP's Thomas Kerrigan also failed to secure enough votes to win their seats back.

Four of the seven District Electoral Areas (DEA) - Ballyarnett, Derg, Faughan and Foyleside - were the first to be counted where the turnout varied from just over 53% in the rural Faughan area to an above-average 62.48% in Derg.

In the Derg DEA, Sinn Fein lost one of the three seats they held to SDLP newcomer Cara Hunter.

The SDLP also took a seat off Sinn Fein in the Ballyarnett DEA where Rory Farrell was elected at the expense of Caoimhe McKnight, who had been co-opted to replace Elisha McCallion after she won the Foyle Westminster seat.

Three new parties will be represented when this council returns to business.


Dr Anne McCloskey, representing Paedar Toibin's Aontu, was elected in the Ballyarnett DEA, while People Before Profit's Shaun Harkin was elected in the Foyleside DEA, and Rachael Ferguson won a seat for the Alliance Party in the Faughan DEA.

DUP newcomer Ryan McCready has also been elected in the Faughan DEA where he joins his party colleague, returning councillor Graham Warke.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was in a jubilant mood at the count centre as newcomer to the political arena, Mary Durkan, topped the poll in the Foyleside DEA and was elected on the first count.

He said: "We set out a plan a number of months ago to make this a staging post for the Westminster election which we lost by 169 votes and we haven't forgotten that.

"I think on today's performance we are in a full position to take that seat back and on the votes that have been counted we are the largest party again.

"Sinn Fein have had a bad day and we have had a good day."

As the curtain fell, the final result in the Ballyarnett DEA was Sinn Fein with two seats, the SDLP with three seats (up one from 2014) and Dr Anne McCloskey for Aontu.

In Derg, the final outcome saw a loss for Sinn Fein who now have two, while the SDLP gain one, the UUP returns Derek Hussey, and Keith Kerrigan for the DUP.

The final tally in Foyleside was the SDLP holding two, Sinn Fein losing one but holding one, with independent Sean Carr taking the sixth seat.

Meanwhile, in Faughan the result saw a loss of one for the SDLP as Sinn Fein held its one seat, the DUP held two seats, and Rachel Ferguson won a seat for the Alliance Party.

Of the three remaining DEAs to be counted today, the focus will be the outcome of the Moor which covers the Creggan where dissident republicans of the New IRA murdered journalist Lyra McKee, and the impact of the backlash of that within the local community.

Independent councillor Gary Donnelly could lose his seat in this ward.

But it will be interesting, too, to see how Eamonn McCann polls for People Before Profit.

Key moments

IAN STEVENSON: The former DUP councillor, who ran as an independent unionist in Ballymoney, failed in his bid to retain a seat in Causeway Coast and Glens council. In December 2018, he was given a community service sentence for sexually assaulting a nursing colleague in a care home.

JULIE-ANNE CORR-JOHNSTON: Gay pro-choice loyalist Julie-Anne- Corr Johnston lost her seat on Belfast City Council. The PUP figure was eliminated on the sixth count in the city’s Oldpark area. Mrs Corr-Johnston (31) was Northern Ireland’s first openly lesbian loyalist politician

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