North Down and Ards results: Greens make mark where Tories and NI21 flop

Stephen Dunne of the DUP who topped the poll in Holywood and Clandeboye. ''Elections 2014
Stephen Dunne of the DUP who topped the poll in Holywood and Clandeboye. ''Elections 2014

While the DUP are by a distance the largest grouping in the newly created district of North Down and Ards, the strong showing by other parties in the election is also significant.

In most areas as overwhelmingly unionist as this council the DUP would have a comfortable overall majority.

They have failed to achieve that, but still won a dominant 17 of the 40 seats.

The Ulster Unionist achievement of winning nine is something of a revival for them in the area, but still far below the level they would once have expected.

The new council area is similar in boundaries to a combination of the North Down and Strangford Westminster seats that were established in 1983, when the UUP was far ahead of the DUP in both parts of what is now the new council.

The Green Party’s success in picking up three seats is an illustration of the extent to which politics in the northern part of Co Down is notably less tribal than the rest of the Province.

When counting ended on Saturday night, the Alliance Party seemed content with its seven seats – one in each of the seven electoral areas.

The party could have been squeezed by the UUP revival, the Green vote, NI21 and Conservative candidates.

Those latter two parties, that like Alliance emphasise their anti-sectarian appeal, needed to poll strongly in such traditionally moderate areas as North Down and Ards, but did not attract a large vote.

In all seven electoral areas, both parties fielded a candidate each, who polled on average around 200 votes, with the Conservatives edging it over NI21.

Johnny Andrews, whose forebears include the Titanic designer Thomas Andrews, did the best of these two parties, when he won 411 votes as a Tory in Comber. But it was not enough to avoid elimination.

In Bangor West, Steven Bernard Denny polled the best of the seven NI21 candidates across the council areas when he secured 344 votes, but also insufficient to gain a seat.

In Comber, where Robert Gibson of the DUP topped the poll, the last candidate elected was Stephen James Coooper, who becomes the only TUV representative in North Down and Ards.

The only nationalist councillor on the new authority will be Joe Boyle, who came second in the ballot in the Ards Peninsula electoral area, where the DUP again topped the poll (Robert Adair).

There will be two independents on the council: Alan Chambers who won most votes in Bangor East, and James Menagh, who was most popular in Newtownards.

Asked whether the Ulster Unionists will tend to side with the DUP and TUV to create an overwhelming traditional unionist bloc, or if they will join moderate parties to thwart the DUP’s will, the 35-year-old newly elected UUP councillor Carl McClean said: “We are going to take each decision as it comes and do the right thing for North Down and Ards at every opportunity.”

Peter Weir MLA, a former DUP council leader in North Down, said: “You have in North Down good working relations between all the main parties and I hope that will continue.”

Another MLA who stood down from the council to avoid double jobbing, Alliance’s Stephen Farry, said of the party’s seven seats: “It will give us a strong platform in the new council and will ensure that we are a major player in terms of decision-making on behalf of the people of this new council.”

Counting on Friday and Saturday was slow in Bangor Central, where 17 candidates were vying for six seats, with votes widely spread between them.

Wesley Irvine of the DUP was first in, after he had topped the poll with 643 votes in a contest in which no candidate secured an overwhelming mandate.

One of the most traditionally unionist areas was Newtownards, which returned three seats out of seven for the DUP, and two for the Ulster Unionists.

The independent James Menagh got the first Newtownards seat, and Alan Joseph McDowell got one of the last for Alliance.

In Holywood and Clandeboye, Stephen Dunne, 25, topped the poll for the DUP, while Alliance’s Andrew Muir and John Barry of the Greens also polled strongly.