There were plenty of smiles on the faces of Ulster Unionist representatives as the party claimed some major victories – including the first ever unionist councillor to top a poll in staunchly nationalist Mid Tyrone.
It was a different story for the DUP, who lost long-serving councillor Charlie Chittick in the same area.
Seventy-four year-old Bert Wilson was the first candidate elected to the new Fermanagh and Omagh District council, and said he was delighted to have claimed the most first preference votes.
The results for four of the new super council’s district electoral areas were announced yesterday in Omagh Leisure Centre, as candidates, supporters and media gathered to hear who would take the first 22 of the 40 seats up for grabs.
While it is set to be a majority nationalist council, the victory of Mr Wilson in Mid Tyrone was a ringing endorsement for unionism according to the area’s MLA Tom Elliott.
Within minutes of Mr Wilson coming out on top in Mid Tyrone, Alex Baird took victory in Erne West.
“It’s a great boost to unionism in the west of the Province to see two candidates both elected on first count and topping the poll,” Mr Elliott, the former UUP leader, told the News Letter.
Mr Chittick, accompanied by his family who were visibly upset at the news he had lost his seat after nine years, said he was disappointed but would carry on in political life.
“I thank God for giving me the strength and encouragement to fight this election for the third time,” he said. “I fought a good, clean honest battle. This is not the end for me in politics, you have not heard the last of Charlie Chittick.”
First-timer Andrew Bullick, son of long-standing councillor and Omagh candidate Eric, polled 122 first preference votes – something former Omagh councillor and current Enniskillen candidate Ann Gormley said the party is “really pleased” with.
Controversial independent Susan Anne White, who spoke of a campaign directed against the “destructive homosexual agenda”, polled just 67 votes.
Asked about her future in politics the 55-year-old mother-of-one told the News Letter she was interested in setting up a party and said she believes the “majority of people in Northern Ireland will agree with our views but many of them are afraid to say so”.
After a long day in the count centre, a large Sinn Fein contingent cheered their councillors to victory at the official declaration for Mid Tyrone.
The West Tyrone results were the last to be declared last night, with the DUP winning one of two contested seats.
The DUP’s Mark Buchanan was elected, at the expense of co-opted party colleague Elaine Thompson - wife of Omagh Town councillor Errol.
Mid Tyrone had returned four Sinn Fein councillors, giving them an overall tally of 10 – with Stephen McCann crossing the line in West Tyrone.
The SDLP successfully returned four councillors, Mary Garrity last to be elected.
The Ulster Unionists will be pleased to have returned five candidates, topping the poll in two of the four areas so far.
For the DUP it was a relatively disappointing day, with David Mahon joining Buchanan but the loss of Mid Tyrone’s Charlie Chittick.
Independent candidate Bernice Swift, a former Sinn Fein councillor, was elected in Erne West.
For more results and news from the count centres see Saturday’s News Letter.