Election results Mid Ulster: Unionists ‘need to work together’ call

Mid-Ulster Council UUP election winners Derek McKinney, Trevor Wilson and George Shiels.
Mid-Ulster Council UUP election winners Derek McKinney, Trevor Wilson and George Shiels.

Sinn Fein emerged with a hugely dominant position in Mid Ulster following the election count at the weekend.

The party, which has long been a strong force in the region, scooped 18 out of the 40 seats available with only two of the party’s candidates failing to win a seat – a spectacular success rate.

The new super council in which they will serve covers an area of Dungannon, Magherafelt and Cookstown councils, which previously shared 56 councillors amongst them.

Martin McGuinness made an appearance at the count to congratulate the new councillors.

There was little competition from fringe parties or the Alliance, and it was also a poor result for independents.

The only non-affiliated candidate to win a seat out of the five who had been standing was independent republican Barry Monteith, who denied Sinn Fein a seat in Dungannon.

Only 15 elected councillors are unionist – seven Ulster Unionists, and eight DUP. The remaining six are SDLP.

Previously, the area had been home to the most Sinn Fein-dominated authority in Northern Ireland – Magherafelt – which was understood to have been the only council in the Province where the party held an outright majority of seats (nine out of 16).

At the weekend, the poll revealed that long-serving councillor Paul McLean (DUP) had topped the poll in that district .

“I’m very delighted,” he said.

“This is a first time. I think my hard work and keeping a rapport with the electorate has definitely paid off. It’s been great to be first over the line, and get the vote that I’ve got.”

In Clogher Valley, the DUP’s Frances Burton topped the poll with 1,584 votes.

An emotional Mrs Burton said she was “completely overwhelmed” by the votes.

The UUP’s group leader in Cookstown, councillor Trevor Wilson, secured his seat comfortably in his district.

Although they face a powerfully nationalist bloc in the council, he said: “We will be working very hard for everybody, and I hope consensus can be reached ... We are looking for mature politics.

“It’s obvious that the unionist parties will have to work together within the new Mid Ulster constituency.

“We’re very happy as a party with the vote that we got, and we’ll look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”

Mid Ulster, incorporating Dungannon, Cookstown and Magherafelt Council areas, had a total turnout of 56,068 (from an electorate of 95,249) – which works out as being just under 59 per cent.

This was high compared to some further east, with areas like Antrim and Newtownabbey, Lisburn and Castlereagh and Mid and East Antrim all coming in below the 50 per cent mark.

The SDLP’s Tony Quinn told the Mid Ulster Mail he was “happy and delighted” to have secured his seat, and when it comes to what happens next, he said that high on the agenda was “the new responsibilities” which councils will face under the new regime.

Perhaps the most talked about and significant of these is the devolution of planning powers to council level, with local authorities responsible for decisions on building and development in its own area.

In addition, he said, there were simply the usual “day to day” issues which will need to be resolved by the new council.

As previously reported, among the major development issues in the area are wind turbines, and the trouble-struck Desertcreat police and fire training college.