30th May 2023
Northern Ireland went to the polls on Thursday 18th May… well, 54% of the eligible electorate went to the polls to be more precise. The results of this election have been well broken down at this point, with significant gains for Sinn Féin, gains for the Alliance Party, a solid defence by the DUP and losses for both the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP.
Local Government Elections differ from Assembly and Westminster Elections in that often people vote for the individual over the party, just ask the 19 Independents elected to councils across Northern Ireland. In a Local Government Election, the personality is key, so let’s have a look at some notable personalities who featured in this election…
Gary Hynds – Gary Hynds will be celebrating his election to Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, representing the Lisburn North DEA. Gary previously stood for election for the NI Conservatives, but resigned from the party last year over his opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol. Standing as an Independent this time around, Gary won a seat on the council at the expense of the sitting Mayor, Scott Carson (DUP).
Ryan McCready – Originally elected to Derry City & Strabane District Council as a DUP representative, Ryan McCready defected to the Ulster Unionist Party in 2021. Representing the UUP in the 2022 Assembly Election, Ryan performed well and ran sitting DUP MLA Gary Middleton down to the wire. Ryan then ran in May’s Local Government Election in the Faughan DEA and topped the poll, one of few success stories for the UUP in this election.
Lewis Boyle – A-level student Lewis made headlines when he was elected to represent the Ballyclare DEA of Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council as he became Northern Ireland’s youngest elected representative. 18-year-old Lewis is a success story for the Alliance Party, who now have representation for this area of Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council for the first time.
Bréanainn Lyness – North Antrim is often described as the heartland of the DUP, with the North Antrim Westminster seat being won by a Paisley at every General Election since 1970. There was upset at the May 2022 Assembly Election when the Alliance Party gained a seat at the DUP’s expense, and this upset was heightened further at the Local Government Election. Bréanainn Lyness secured Sinn Féin’s first ever seat in the Ballymena DEA of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, gaining from the SDLP. There was a similar story in the Lisburn North DEA of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, where Sinn Féin’s Paul Burke became the first ever Sinn Féin councillor for this area.
Séamas de Faoite – In 2019 Séamas de Faoite was the last councillor elected in Northern Ireland after a long count at Belfast City Hall. In the four years since, Séamas has earned his reputation as a diligent worker for his constituents in the Lisnasharragh DEA, but it was predicted that he would struggle to retain this seat if the SDLP didn’t have a great election. The SDLP didn’t have a great election, but Séamas almost doubled his vote and retained his seat on Belfast City Council.
Mal O’Hara – The leader of the Green Party lost his Castle DEA seat on Belfast City Council to Sinn Féin – a huge blow to his party as this came a year after his predecessor as party leader (Clare Bailey) lost her Assembly seat to the Alliance Party.
Billy Hutchinson – A councillor since 1997, leader of the PUP Billy Hutchinson lost his seat in the Court DEA of Belfast City Council, leaving his party with no representation in Belfast, and with only one elected member in all of Northern Ireland (Russell Watton in Coleraine).
Jill Macauley – In a major blow for the Ulster Unionist Party, party Chair Jill Macauley lost her seat in Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council. The UUP entered this election with 3 seats in the Banbridge DEA and emerged with 2, with Jill as the casualty, despite starting with more first preference votes than one of her running mates.
People Before Profit – People Before Profit lost 3 of the 5 council seats they entered the Local Government Election with. With losses in The Moor DEA of Derry City & Strabane District Council (Maeve O’Neill); and the Oldpark (Fiona Ferguson) and Black Mountain (Matt Collins) DEAs of Belfast City Council, People Before Profit will be disappointed to now only have one voice in each of these councils (Michael Collins in Belfast and Shaun Harkin in Derry City and Strabane).
Aontú – In the 2019 Local Government Election Aontú won one seat in Northern Ireland in the Ballyarnett DEA of Derry City & Strabane District Council with Dr Anne McCloskey. A few months after this election, SDLP Councillor in Mid Ulster, Denise Mullen, defected to Aontú. Dr McCloskey stood down from her elected role in 2020 as her views on the Covid-19 pandemic “differed” from the views of her party, and was replaced by Emmet Doyle. Both of these seats held by Aontú were lost to Sinn Féin in May’s election.
Haven’t I seen you before?
Roy Beggs – Former MLA for East Antrim (who lost out to the Alliance Party at the May 2022 Assembly Election) was elected over quota on the first count to represent the Ulster Unionist Party for the Larne Lough DEA of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council. Known for being thorough and detail-orientated, Roy will be a welcome addition to a council that has been heavily hit by controversy in the past couple of years.
Pat Catney – Pat Catney was a progressive voice that was a loss to the NI Assembly when he wasn’t returned following May 2022’s Assembly Election; his Period Products (Free Provisions) Act had gained him widespread respect across Northern Ireland. He will now represent the SDLP on Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, after his election for the Lisburn North DEA.
Paula Bradley – The DUP Deputy Leader and former MLA for North Belfast decided to not recontest her seat in the 2022 Assembly Election. Following the election of party colleague Phillip Brett to this Assembly seat, Paula was co-opted into his vacant seat left in Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council. Paula has now won this seat for the Glengormley Urban DEA in her own right.
Sammy Douglas – Former East Belfast DUP MLA Sammy Douglas joined Belfast City Council last year when a vacancy arose following David Brooks’ election to the Assembly. Sammy retained this seat for the Titanic DEA in the Local Government Election, and has been joined on the council by his son Davy, who won a seat representing the Lisnasharragh DEA.
Rosemary Barton – Rosemary Barton hasn’t had a great run of elections in the last year. She lost her position as an MLA representing Fermanagh & South Tyrone in the 2022 Assembly Election, but a few months later the Ulster Unionist Party co-opted her onto the Mid Tyrone seat of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council. She then lost this council seat to the DUP in May’s Local Government Election.
Hopefully this will be the only election we’ll see in 2023, but never say never; with the continued lack of a functioning power-sharing Assembly, politics in Northern Ireland remains filled with challenges. With our first-hand experience and contacts in local government, central government and government officials, the MCE team can provide you with unparalleled insight. For more information on how we can help you, get in touch.