SF, DUP consolidate their positions as dominant voices in council politics

With more than 400 of 462 seats declared the two largest parties have 213 seats

Sinn Féin and the DUP have consolidated their grip on Northern politics in the second day of counting in the local government elections.

With more than 400 of 462 seats now declared on a turnout of just over 50 per cent, the two largest parties have 213 seats between them.

In terms of first preference votes Sinn Féin is the largest party with fractionally over 24 per cent, marginally down on the last election. The DUP has just over 23 per cent, down more than 4 percentage points, but leaving its dominance within unionism largely untouched.

Despite having the largest share of the vote, however, Sinn Féin’s vote has not translated into a larger number of seats than the DUP.


While Sinn Féin’s seats total approached 100 mark the DUP had 121.

This is most likely due to the pattern of transfers in later counts.

The Ulster Unionists are performing quite well, with party leader Mike Nesbitt at the helm for his first election. They have 84 seats and around a 17 per cent share of the first preference vote. Mr Nesbitt is claiming the DUP vote has peaked while his party has posted gains after a series of difficult elections.

The SDLP under Dr Alasdair McDonnell, also in his first election as leader, is finding the going tougher. His party has around 13 per cent of first preferences, down some 1.5 percentage points, and currently 62 council seats. However counting is continuing in areas where the SDLP is expected to have additional councillors elected.

Dr McDonnell said he had sought “renewal” for his party and won it. He pointed to the election of 20 councillors who are new to electoral politics and claimed the SDLP would reach its target number of seats.

The Alliance party, despite slipping a little, is also pointing to some strong performances, particularly in Belfast where it holds the balance of power between Sinn Féin and the SDLP on one hand, and unionists of all colours on the other. The party did well in the face of predictions that it would be squeezed in some strongly unionist areas over the decision the flying of the Union flag.

However the party had to scale back its ambitions in parts of Co Antrim.

Traditional Unionist Voice, the anti-Belfast Agreement party, has increased its share of council seats and now has 13 councillors elected, including one in Belfast - a breakthrough for the party which strongly opposes powersharing with Sinn Féin.

The small loyalist Progressive Unionist Party, which was led by the late David Ervine, has also won seats in Belfast and Coleraine. The party seems to have reversed the trend locally where working class unionist voters are among the most reluctant in Northern Ireland to vote.

The Green party, meanwhile, is celebrating the election of three candidates in North Down and Ards.

In West Belfast, People Before Profit have make a breakthrough in the Black Mountain electoral area winning a council seat.

The UK Independence Party, which made key advances in council elections in England, also made some notable gains, winning three seats so far and taking support in the main from the main unionist parties.

NI21, the newest unionist grouping, won a seat in Lisburn and Castlereagh despite the turmoil which hit the party this week.

Set up by Assembly members Basil McCrea and John McCallister last year when they walked away from the Ulster Unionists, the party has been badly damaged by allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr McCrea and a public spat between him and Mr McCallister, his deputy leader.

Counting is expected to conclude later tonight but may have to continue on Monday morning.