Election results Belfast: Alliance and UUP make capital gains

Alliance's Michael Long pictured with wife Naomi Long MP''. 'Photo Arthur Allison/Pacemaker
Alliance's Michael Long pictured with wife Naomi Long MP''. 'Photo Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

The implosion in the Alliance Party’s vote in the capital city which some had predicted simply did not materialise, but the Ulster Unionists stormed back in Belfast.

Some unionists had warned during the flag protests that Alliance’s vote to restrict the flying of the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall would be punished at the polls.

But Alliance, which in the last council had six councillors, actually returned eight councillors, despite a slight fall in the party’s vote.

However, the Alliance vote in the east of the city, where the party’s group leader on the council, Maire Hendron, lost her seat, was down enough to allow the DUP to argue that the results indicated that East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long will struggle to hold her seat.

DUP leader Peter Robinson said that Mrs Long was “on notice” that her seat was likely to change hands, pointing to the vote in the areas which make up the Westminster seat, but Alliance members pointed to the different boundaries between Westminster and local government areas and to the plethora of candidates.

There were several prominent councillors who lost out on seats in the new council. DUP group leader and party strategist Lee Reynolds lost out on a seat in north Belfast, something which party leader Peter Robinson said could be partly explained by his name being alphabetically so far down the ballot paper.

Former SDLP Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy also lost out after polling behind running-mate Declan Boyle. Former Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O’Donnghaile at one time looked like he might lose his seat but held on, at the expense of Alliance’s Maire Hendron.

The big winners on the unionist side were the UUP, PUP and TUV, who each took seats as some voters switched from the DUP or Alliance.

The UUP, which in 2011 was decimated in the capital it once ruled, more than doubled its three seats to seven. One of those went to former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson’s one-time ministerial adviser, Graham Craig, while another went to Jeff Dudgeon, the man whose European court challenge led to homosexuality being decriminalised in Northern Ireland.

The PUP, which has similarly been through a long period of decline, also saw regrowth in its vote. Leader Billy Hutchinson retained his north Belfast seat, as did John Kyle in the east of the city. But an increased party vote saw Julie-Anne Corr take a seat in the Oldpark area.

And the TUV made a breakthrough in the capital, seeing 22-year-old Jolene Bunting – who only joined the party in recent months – elected in north Belfast.

In Collin, Sinn Fein maintained its grip, returning five of its candidates in the six-seat area. But although Sinn Fein took five of the seven seats in Black Mountain, it could not stop Gerry Carroll making a historic breakthrough for the anti-capitalist People Before Profit Alliance.

Both Claire Bailey in Botanic and Ross Brown in Ormiston polled strongly for the Green Party. The former narrowly failed to get in, while the latter made history as the first Green councillor elected, eventually confirmed in the early hours of Sunday morning.