Election results Mid and East Antrim: DUP still the top dogs

Stewart McDonald and Timothy Gaston, elected to Bannside DEA, with TUV members Jim Allister, Julie McDonald, young Zach McDonald, Ruby Gillespie, Elsa Witherspoon.
Stewart McDonald and Timothy Gaston, elected to Bannside DEA, with TUV members Jim Allister, Julie McDonald, young Zach McDonald, Ruby Gillespie, Elsa Witherspoon.

Unionism retained its grip in the stronghold of Mid and East Antrim.

The DUP remained the biggest party (16 seats), the UUP (nine seats) proved a strengthening force, and great shockwaves were sent out when the TUV confirmed they were on the up with five seats.

The turnout was 47.95 per cent of an eligible population of 96,494.

Speaking after their fifth councillor was elected, TUV leader Jim Allister said: “We are increasing our foothold in this area, a product I believe of strong solid work on behalf of the people in the constituency, gratifying to me as it is the heart of my constituency base.”

He said the TUV went into the election with two councillors adding “and now some excellent candidates have been elected who are youthful, enthusiastic and committed to the people”.

“That recipe along with the view of the need for unionists to stand up for themselves, means that we will continue to grow, and that roll-over unionism is in decline and the resurgence of strong unionism is on the increase in this town and elsewhere.”

He added that TUV is “a threat to Sinn Fein ... because of the strong transfer within the unionist family”.

Earlier, DUP MP Sammy Wilson emphasised that his party remains “the biggest party in the new council”.

He said: “On the upside we have held on to the same proportion of the seats we had in the old councils and will be the biggest party in the new council, but there have been disappointments.

“We have lost some of our sitting councillors, we got new ones in as well of course, and the percentage of the vote is lower than it had been before.

“We had hoped we would get some additional councillors in which we haven’t managed to do.”

Mr Wilson said he believed there are a number of reasons why they suffered disappointment.

“First of all being the biggest party in Northern Ireland, where things are not seen to be working as well as they should be, the onus is always going to fall on us and we have suffered from some of that.

“I think the TUV have done better than previous elections because with the European elections being held on the same day they have had Jim Allister, who is very high profile and a big public presence, holding the hands of many candidates, and that has helped their vote. So there has been a combination of things.”

Meanwhile, UUP councillor for Larne Lough, Mark McKinty, 26, who has been on Larne council for three years, said his party had increased their vote share and gained a number of seats in areas.

“It is great news across the board for the party. The electorate are placing their trust in our principles of trust and honesty and hard work.”

The only SDLP councillor to be elected to the Mid and East Antrim super council, Declan O’Loan, said: “We always knew it was going to be a very unionist council.”

He added: “In the new arena there is a smaller nationalist presence and a stronger TUV presence, which is a big concern, and in other councils too where there is a big majority of one sort or another and they decide locally they have autonomy and carry everything in front of them in a very dominant way.

“That would be very dangerous politics. I would say from the outset that this is the biggest risk to the performance of this council.”