Causeway Coast and Glens results: Call for unionist co-operation

Ballymoney DUP mayor, John Finlay, made history when he became the first elected to the new Causeway Coast and Glens Council
Ballymoney DUP mayor, John Finlay, made history when he became the first elected to the new Causeway Coast and Glens Council

Now that the party political battle is out of the way it is time to get down to the business of government – and for many on the north coast, jobs are the priority.

The DUP and UUP are now roughly even on the new Causeway Coast and Glens super council, with 11 councillors to 10, respectively.

The DUP had hoped for better, and its deputy mayor of Limavady, James McCorkell, said the tightly-run election will mean they are forced to work more closely with their unionist rivals to get things done.

In practical terms he expects employment issues to be at the forefront of the mind of many, and said the new council should take advantage of the combined tourism potential of the four areas which will make it up – Moyle, Coleraine, Ballymoney and Limavady itself.

“There is going to be a bedding-in period. Everything is still up in the air very much,” said Mr McCorkell, who held on to his own seat.

“As a council, and as a party, the focus that I’d like to see is that with the north coast, right down to the Roe Valley, I think we have got the best potential in a council for tourism.

“If we can make tourism flourish, I think we can turn it into jobs, and that’s what people want. That’s what people are crying out for.”

He said there are plenty of festivals and events such as the Lammas Fair and North West 200, and that up until now the four individual councils themselves had been “quite parochial” in terms of how they approached things.

Moyle and Ballymoney are the two smallest councils in the Province, and when the new super authority assumes full powers in 2015, Mr McCorkell said it gives the region a chance to unite their resources to draw visitors in.

He acknowledged the results fell below his expectations, and that the DUP had been hoping for up to 15 councillors – although he admitted this had been “optimistic”.

“There’s no one party that will be able to stamp their authority on anything,” he said.

“People are crying out for unionist unity. On-the-ground co-operation is the only thing we are going to be able to do.”

Jobs are also a priority for the PUP’s Russell Watton; a former independent who topped the polls in Coleraine.

Despite the number of councillors in the area falling from 68 to just 40 under the merger, the TUV managed to secure three seats – the same number they already had.

In total, there are 13 nationalists on the council – seven Sinn Fein and six SDLP, and one Alliance councillor.

It turned out much better for the unionist brigade than some predicted, such as long-serving UUP Coleraine councillor David Barbour.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “I thought it’d have been more of a balance between DUP and Sinn Fein. It turned out not like that at all.”

Among those who were defeated in their bid to take a seat was Charles ‘Pappy’ O’Kane.

He had planned to stand as an SDLP candidate in Ballymoney, but after calling on the party to ditch its support for the PSNI over his concerns about policing in the area, he stood as an independent.

He was eliminated after polling 196 votes.

NI21 stood two candidates in the region but failed to make an impression, while UKIP ran three but also failed to make significant headway.