Counting underway in Belfast

Tense times for politicians in the Province’s capital as vote counting got underway at Belfast City Hall earlier today.

Scores of staff took their places at the counting tables during the morning, sifting through the emptied ballot boxes and weeding out spoiled and misplaced papers.

Election count at City Hall, May 23, c.1.30pm. Taken by Adam Kula

Election count at City Hall, May 23, c.1.30pm. Taken by Adam Kula

Turnout for five of the District Electoral Areas stands at roughly 50 per cent, on average.

No official news of the results are out yet, but some preliminary samples of the votes cast suggest that Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Martin O’Muilleoir is set to come out top in his electoral area of Balmoral – the first to be counted.

A source also said that it looks likely the area will return councillors from the DUP, Alliance and SDLP too.

Tom Eakin, an Alliance councillor who is not standing in this latest round, said that they are confident that in both Balmoral and Botanic they will return at least one councillor apiece - although he added that there are always upsets in every election.

There are early signs that one such upset may be that the SDLP’s Pat McCarthy could lose his seat in Botanic - although the votes for that area will not be counted until tomorrow and the result is far from certain.

“According to some, I am in trouble in my own district electoral area (DEA),” said councillor McCarthy, who had led the call for the Pope to be invited to Belfast earlier this year.

“We always live in hope. If, after 13 years working for people, if it’s not enough, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

In all, five DEAs are to be counted today, with full results not due until well into the night.