Election results Fermanagh and Omagh: UUP wins its skirmish with DUP

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This new council area might be an overwhelmingly nationalist one, but it is fair to say unionism put up a good fight, with the UUP topping the poll in a few areas over its DUP rivals.

Day two of the count in Omagh Leisure Centre, where the final three District Electoral Areas of Erne East, Enniskillen and Omagh were announced, began with a UUP victory for Victor Warrington, who pushed the DUP’s Paul Robinson into second place.

It followed a poll-topping victory for Bert Wilson in Mid Tyrone on Friday, and colleague Alex Baird in Erne West.

Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff, who joined his party candidates for what was to be a second long day at the count centre, dismissed the importance of topping the poll as “a symbolic victory”, telling the News Letter his party’s strategy was one of “getting people over the line, not about personal victories”.

Having returned 17 councillors it can be said their strategy worked – but the SDLP did take a seat in Erne East with first-timer Richie McPhillips undoubtedly preventing Sinn Fein from taking the four seats they had hoped for in that area.

Later, a somewhat shocked Joanne Donnelly was cheered in the foyer after gaining a seat for the SDLP in Omagh, leaving it at two-all with Sinn Fein.

Mr McPhillips, a 56-year-old from Newtownbutler, said he believed it showed his party “on the rebound”.

A firm Fermanagh man, he made no secret of his objections to the new council merger with Omagh, but qualified it with an assurance he would work for all the people of the area.

“I will work in the interests of all people but we don’t want to see a situation where the ratepayers of Fermanagh are picking up costs in Omagh.

“Things have to be done for the good of people in both areas.”

A surprisingly strong first preference vote for anti-fracking candidate Donal O’Cofaigh in Enniskillen wasn’t enough to take him through but did, he said, show the strength of feeling in the county against the idea of using the gas extraction method.

UKIP failed to replicate their success across the water, with Freddie Parkinson – the party’s only candidate for Fermanagh and Omagh council – eliminated in the first count of Erne East.

Saturday was a day for new youthful faces as Joanne Donnelly, 23, joined 21-year-old Chris Smyth of the UUP in the Omagh contingent of the new super council.

Joanne told the News Letter she hoped she had succeeded in provoking interest among young people to take a different view of politics.

Speaking ahead of the results, Ross Hussey MLA said he was bemused as to why the DUP would try to take an extra seat in Enniskillen, an area that historically had one councillor for each of the two biggest unionist parties.

Arlene Foster said the party made no apologies for trying to maximise its vote but admitted, following the failure of Shirley Donaldson to be elected, that “it was always going to be an uphill struggle to get two in in Enniskillen”.

Victor Warrington, who on Saturday lived up to his name, said his win, and those of his party colleagues, showed the UUP “hasn’t gone away”.

“I think these results have shown that we are very strong still in Fermanagh.

“And across the Province I think we have shown the Ulster Unionist Party hasn’t gone away. We will have a strong Ulster Unionist presence on this new council.”

Overall both the UUP, who took nine seats, and the SDLP with eight, will see this election as a success.