Local government election – how the parties performed

Posted By: May 06, 2019


John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Monday, May 6, 2019



 DUP – 122 seats (-8)

The DUP’s post mortem will most likely focus on vote management rather than policy and a need to improve the party’s potential for attracting transfers, as overall growth in vote share failed to translate into more seats.

It seems the party leader’s close association with the RHI debacle and saturation coverage of the issue has done nothing to undermine its credentials in the eyes of the electorate.

The DUP will also feel vindicated by its dogged Brexit strategy and the refusal to sign up to last year’s draft Stormont deal last year.

The comparatively poor performance of its smaller rivals suggests Unionism is increasingly consolidating behind a single party.

Council elections 2019: full results

:: Sinn Féin – 105 seats (no change)

SINN Féin’s election was something of a mixed bag – it enjoyed some advances but also setbacks.

Its overall vote was down marginally (-0.8 percent) on 2014 when Republicans received the largest share of first preference votes – a distinction that belongs to the DUP this time around – but there was no change in the number of seats.

The party will be pleased with its performance in Newry, Mourne, and Down, where it gained two seats, and an electoral breakthrough in the unionist-dominated Lisburn and Castlereagh, where it now has two councilors.

But in Derry and Strabane, there will be a concern that the party that two years ago took the Foyle Westminster seat from the SDLP saw its share of seats slip by almost a third.

:: Ulster Unionist Party – 75 seats (-13)

THE UUP still ranks a significant third force on many of the North’s 11 councils but the party that once represented the regional establishment is like an aging stag, wounded and drained by too many ruts.

Mixed messages on a range of issues and a languid leader have done little to address its ongoing identity crisis.

The lift the party received under Mike Nesbitt in 2014’s council election now looks increasingly like a single swallow sighting in late spring.

As eyes now turn to the European election and the defense of a seat the party has held for 40 years, there must be much nervousness in the ranks.

:: SDLP – 59 seats ( -7)

There is likely a sense of ‘there but for the grace of God’ among SDLP members when they look across at the fate of the UUP.

The decline for Colum Eastwood’s party hasn’t been as sharp but there’s no sign of the downward trajectory being reversed.

Yes, there were isolated achievements, such as the Downpatrick DEA of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, and Oldpark and Lisnasharragh in Belfast, but overall performance was lackluster.

The formalized links with Fianna Fáil barely figured in campaigning, suggesting that the long-anticipated cross-border relationship could easily peter out unless it is transformed into something much more meaningful and dynamic.

:: Alliance – 53 seats (+21)


While still ranked as the North’s fifth most popular party, Alliance arguably enjoyed its best election ever, even eclipsing Naomi Long’s famous victory in East Belfast almost a decade ago.

The party added 21 councilors – and increase of almost 65 percent – and broke the hex that historically has seen its support centered on the eastern seaboard.

It now has representation on all but one of the north’s councils and hopes this result represents a sea change among soft unionists increasingly disillusioned by UUP indecisiveness.

:: Others

The performances of the Greens and People Before Profit in Belfast, and the latter in Derry too commanded plenty of media airtime and while the results show a significant surge in support for both, any suggestion that it represents the emergence of a new political paradigm must be taken with a pinch of salt.

The Greens saw its representation in Belfast increase from one to four seats, where People Before Profit gained two seats, and likewise in Derry.

The fledgling anti-abortion Aontú took a solitary seat in Derry while a sitting councilor in Craigavon who defected from Sinn Féin failed to get re-elected.

Unionism’s smaller parties fared badly with the number of TUV seats being more than halved to six and the Progressive Unionist Party losing one of its two seats in Belfast.