Belfast Telegraph

Local Election 2019

We have problems but those writing off UUP 'absolutely wrong,' says Doug Beattie

Party third largest in Northern Ireland

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Robin Swann (left) and his party colleagues John Stewart (centre) and Doug Beattie.
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Robin Swann (left) and his party colleagues John Stewart (centre) and Doug Beattie.
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The UUP's Doug Beattie has said the narrative of his party's decline is "completely untrue".

The party lost 13 councillors in Thursday's poll and saw its share of the vote decrease by 2.1%.

For a full breakdown visit our Election hub and check out the results 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

"We are still the third largest party," MLA Beattie told the BBC.

"We have 75 councillors, 14% of the vote. When DUP or Sinn Fein lost a seat it was because of an Alliance surge. When the Ulster Unionists lost a seat it was because we were in freefall.

"So there is a narrative there that is just not the case.

"We made fantastic gains in Lisburn, in Newry, Mourne and Down and in other places. So those that have written off the Ulster Unionists have got it absolutely wrong."

At Belfast City Council, the once dominant party, dropped from seven to two seats which included the loss of veteran LGBT campaigner Jeffrey Dudgeon. Peter Johnston, David Browne and Chris McGimpsey also lost their seats.

Former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers struggled in his Ormiston District Electoral Area where in the past he has topped the poll. During the campaign he stood by comments in an election leaflet which attempted to link the Alliance party with the "political wing of the provisional IRA". The party has opened disciplinary procedures on the matter.

We are offering a different breed of unionism. Doug Beattie

Chris McGimpsey who lost out to the SDLP's Seamas de Faoite in the final seat of the election hit out at the vote management after polls had closed. He said he did not know his running mate Ben Manton and said there was never enough votes to get two across the line in Lisnasharragh.

"We have major problems in Belfast," continued Mr Beattie.

"But people are trying to spin a narrative we have been absolutely decimated. If Belfast was Northern Ireland then fine but it is not. It is an important part of it but it is not the whole of Northern Ireland."

Party leader Robin Swann said there would always be a space for the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.

"Unionism is not one homogeneous group," he said, "and without the Ulster Unionist Party there would be a whole lot of unionists that would stay at home because they would have no one to vote for.

"We are offering a different breed of unionism to the DUP. Hundreds have written us off for the last 30 years but we will still be here fighting these elections."

Meanwhile the DUP's Christopher Stalford said his party could have secured more seats with better vote management. The party lost eight seats although vote share rose by 1%.

He said there was a message on the doorsteps for restoring Stormont and hoped the forthcoming talks would produce that outcome. He said the institutions should be made "fireproof" in order to stop one party bringing it down again in future.

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd said his party was not ready to return to the Executive until outstanding issues were resolved. He said his party was happy with the result saying there was a voice there for Irish unity. Sinn Fein maintained its seats although vote share dropped by 0.8%.

Doug Beattie said reform of the petition of concern should be the first point on the agenda of the talks.

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