Antrim and Newtownabbey: Urban-rural balance set to shift

Mossley Mill Civic Building, Newtownabbey
Mossley Mill Civic Building, Newtownabbey

One of the areas which looks set to retain its borders and its political complexion relatively well when its new council gets up and running is Antrim and Newtownabbey.

The new hybrid authority will leave the two previous council areas, and their constituent districts, largely intact when they are combined.

This means that little radical shake-up in demographics is likely to take place and the new council – due to take up its full powers from April 2015 – is likely to have about the same balance of unionists to nationalists as the present pair do now; although the vagaries of voter opinion may well change the party-political complexion of that mix.

In the middle, the Alliance Party expect to gain ground in an area which is the party leader’s back yard (David Ford being the MLA for South Antrim). Presently, they have seven councillors across the two areas.

Pat McCudden, Alliance councillor for Ballymoney, said: “Our surveys and our canvassing tell us – and the gentleman who did the predictions – that we would be confident we’d go from seven to nine”, although he feels it may end up being eight.

But even if there are no drastic political shocks, councillor McCudden – who first stood for election in 1977 – said the balance between rural and urban residents is going to shift.

“It’s going to be a bit of a culture shock,” he said.

“Because there is going to be more of a difference of emphasis; the majority of Antrim is rural, the majority of Newtownabbey is urban.”

He estimated that Newtownabbey borough is about 15 per cent rural to 85 per cent urban in terms of population.

Post-merger, he said, it is likely to be more like 60 per cent urban to 40 per cent rural.

Good news perhaps for his own ward of Ballyclare, which he feels has long been marginalised within its more urban-dominated authority.

But it may also mean that regions which are essentially part of the north Belfast sprawl, such as the Glengormley area, find they are fitting into a local political landscape which has a slightly more pastoral tinge than they are used to.

The bigger borough of Newtownabbey – with a population upwards of 85,000 – is losing one council seat from the 25 which the area presently has, while the area now covered by the 54,000-plus borough of Antrim will lose three of its 19 seats.

Meetings have historically been held in Antrim’s Civic Centre and Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey, and there has been no decision taken yet on which – if either – will be the headquarters of the new council, with its first meeting set for Antrim on June 12, and then its second for Mossley on June 26. There is also no new logo as yet.

At present, of the two, Antrim borough has a higher proportion of nationalists – 7/19 – as opposed to Newtownabbey’s mere 3/25.

There are going to be some internal boundary tweaks (such as the previous Newtownabbey region of Mallusk falling into the Airport District Electoral Area, for instance).

But veteran Ulster Unionist councillor Mervyn Rea also does not believe that either these, or the overall council merger, will amount to any serious power shift between the orange and green “families” – or any major difference to residents’ lives.

Councillor Rea (Antrim South East) said: “As long as the council facilities are there, the grass is cut and the bins are collected, I don’t really think people will care whether it is a white or a purple refuse vehicle, as long as the job is done – and I do not see why there should be any change in the workload that has to be done.”

Your candidates:


Richard William Cairns (TUV)

Adrian Cochrane-Watson (UUP)

Brian Graham (DUP)

Nigel Kells (DUP)

Neil Kelly (Alliance)

Roisin Lynch (SDLP)

Noel Maguire (SF)

Sian O’Neill (Alliance)

Drew Ritchie (UUP)

John Smyth (DUP)

George Young (NI21)


Thomas Burns (SDLP)

Heather Fee (NI21)

Oran Keenan (SDLP)

Alan Lawther (Alliance)

Anne-Marie Logue (SF)

Matthew Magill (DUP)

Paul Michael (UUP)

Mervyn Rea (UUP)

Roy Thompson (DUP)


David Arthurs (TUV)

Jim Bingham (UUP)

Gary English (NI21)

Mandy Girvan (DUP)

Tim Girvan (DUP)

Jordan Greer (DUP)

Pat McCudden (Alliance)

Scott McDowell (PUP)

David McMaster (Ind)

Vera McWilliam (UUP)

Robert Moore (Ind)


Trevor Beatty (DUP)

Anthony Brady (SF)

Linda Clarke (DUP)

Henry John Cushinan (SF)

Brian Duffin (SDLP)

Julian McGrath (Alliance)

Roderick Swann (UUP)

Ryan Wilson (SDLP)


Audrey Ball (DUP)

John Blair (Alliance)

Phillip Brett (DUP)

Mark Cosgrove (UUP)

Sam Flanagan (DUP)

Michael Goodman (SF)

Mary Higgins (NI21)

Michael Maguire (UUP)

Noreen McClelland (SDLP)

Sam Nelson (Alliance)

Gerry O’Reilly (SF)


Bronach Anglin (SF)

Billy De Courcy (DUP)

Paul Hamill (DUP)

Thomas William Hogg (DUP)

David Hollis (TUV)

Dominic Mullaghan (SDLP)

Victor Robinson (DUP)

John Scott (UUP)

Dineen Walker (DUP)

Billy Webb (Alliance)

Ken Wilkinson (PUP)


Fraser Agnew (UUP)

William Ball (DUP)

Pamela Barr (DUP)

Tom Campbell (Alliance)

Lynn Frazer (Alliance)

Gary Grattan (NI21)

Robert Hill (DUP)

Ben Kelso (UUP)

Darren William Logan (PUP)

Trevor Mawhinney (TUV)

Stephen Ross (DUP)

Jackie Shaw (PUP)