DCSIMG

Mid and East Antrim: ‘Little cohesion’ expected in unionist bastion

The Braid Arts Centre

The Braid Arts Centre

What does Ian Paisley’s former stomping ground have in common with a Norman garrison town and an industrial port?

Precious little, according to some, and yet Ballymena will be lumped together with Carrickfergus and Larne under the large super-council umbrella of Mid and East Antrim.

There is no doubt how the election will turn out.

The merger simply turns three powerfully-unionist councils into one giant one; a belt stretching from Islandmagee to the banks of the Bann.

Like the other super-councils, it will be fully up-and-running from April 2015.

So strongly Protestant is the area that not a single candidate from either of the two nationalist parties is standing in Carrickfergus Castle on May 22 – a district electoral area (DEA) centred on the 27,000-strong town.

The picture is the same in the Knockagh district as well – although Larne does have one nationalist candidate (from Sinn Fein) vying for a seat.

Instead of doubting unionism’s triumph on May 22, many will instead question just which of the pro-UK parties will emerge on top.

Unlike west of the Bann, the region has a tendency to elect a more varied palate of unionists from outside the two main parties.

Ballymena, the town in which Lord Bannside was raised, elected two TUV candidates in 2011, and Larne one.

With the additional profile the party has gained in recent years, despite its limited size, its 10 candidates for the area can be expected to present a challenge to the main parties come May 22.

However, its support in Ballymena might have suffered from the scandal surrounding the former TUV town councillor David Tweed, who was convicted of sex abuse charges in late 2012.

In addition to the TUV toehold in the region, four independents also currently have seats across the trio of old council areas, plus one NI Conservative in Larne.

This time, eight non-party candidates are planning to stand across the area, in addition to one from UKIP and two from NI21, and five from the PUP (as well as two from the far-right extremist BNP) – so the vote could well end up being highly divided.

Alliance now has a respectable showing in the area too, with three councillors apiece in Larne and Carrickfergus, and one in Ballymena.

However, it is likely this will be hard hit as a result of loyalist antipathy following the Union Flag controversy.

One councillor hoping to enter a 35th year of politics in Carrickfergus is Jim Brown, a long-time independent, who said that there was “little cohesion” between the areas being put together in the new council.

In addition, Ballymena looks set to dominate the new arrangement, in more ways than one.

The old Carrick council had 17 members, and Larne 15.

Under the new arrangements, Mr Brown said the same areas will have 10 each, while there are 20 in the old Ballymena Borough Council Area (down from 24 before).

There has been no formal decision on where the new council will be headquartered – although the first post-election meeting will be in Ballymena’s Braid Centre.

Asked where the new council will ultimately have its base, Mr Brown added: “I think practicality puts it in Ballymena. We don’t have a big chamber – we’re crammed with 17. Larne has 15.

“I’d say the lack of alternatives will mean it’s Ballymena.”

One source who spoke to the News Letter said the only reason any Ballymena person would have to visit Larne would be to travel to Scotland, and that their only acquaintance with Carrickfergus would likely have been a school trip to its castle.

Speaking about the seemingly disparate population centres which will now share a council, Audrey Wales, DUP mayor of Ballymena, said: “Every change is difficult. You never know how things are going to work out,” but added optimistically: “We may have more in common than we imagine”.

Asked about the chances of success for the smaller unionist parties, she said: “That’s the million dollar question. If you had a crystal ball to predict who was going to emerge victorious you’d be a very popular person.”

Your candidates:

BALLYMENA:

Donna Anderson (TUV)

Matthew Armstrong (TUV)

John Carson (DUP)

Jayne Dunlop (Alliance)

Reuben Glover (DUP)

James Henry (Independent)

Marian Maguire (SF)

Richard Marshall (NI21)

David A McCartney (DUP)

Stephen Nicholl (UUP)

Declan O’Loan (SDLP)

Rodney Quigley (Independent)

Eugene Reid (SDLP)

Audrey Wales (DUP)

BANNSIDE:

Philip Burnside (Alliance)

Timothy Gaston (TUV)

Thomas John Gordon (DUP)

Patrice Hardy (SF)

Billy Henry (DUP)

Stewart McDonald (TUV)

William NcNeilly (UUP)

Phil Moffatt (DUP)

Tommy Nicholl (DUP)

Andrew Wright (UUP)

BRAID:

Beth Adger (DUP)

Robin Cherry (UUP)

Beth Clyde (DUP)

Brian Collins (TUV)

Danny Donnelly (Alliance)

Samuel Hanna (DUP)

Paul Maguire (SF)

William McCaughey (DUP)

Roy McPeake (TUV)

Catherine O’Hara (SDLP)

William Parkhill (PUP)

Brian Thompson (UUP)

Chris Wales (DUP)

CARRICK CASTLE:

Elena Aceves-Cully (Alliance)

Billy Ashe (DUP)

Charles James Brown (no party listed)

John Cameron (no party listed)

Fred Cobain (DUP)

Jonathan Cooke (PUP)

Cheryl Jacilyn Johnston (DUP)

Noel Jordan (UKIP)

William Knox (TUV)

Gavin Norris (Alliance)

John Robert Stewart (UUP)

Nick Wady (Independent)

COAST ROAD:

John Hugh Anderson (Independent)

Robert Stanley Bell (BNP)

Jonathan Hodge (PUP)

Gordon Lyons (DUP)

James McKeown (SF)

Steven Paul Moore (BNP)

Maureen Morrow (UUP)

Geraldine Mulvenna (Alliance)

Drew Niblock (DUP)

Danny O’Connor (Independent)

Martin Wilson (SDLP)

Ruth Wilson (TUV)

KNOCKAGH:

May Beattie (DUP)

Gary Broad (NI Conservatives)

Gareth Cole (PUP)

Robert Harrison-Rice (DUP)

Jim McCaw (PUP)

Lynn McClurg (DUP)

Ken McFaul (TUV)

Lindsay Millar (UUP)

Barry Patterson (no party listed)

Paul Sinclair (Alliance)

Robert James Stewart (DUP)

Noel Williams (Alliance)

Andrew Wilson (UUP)

LARNE LOUGH:

Kenneth William Johnston (TUV)Jeremy Jones (NI21)

Robert Logan (Alliance)

Michael Lynch (Alliance)

Gregg McKeen (DUP)

Mark Richard McKinty (UUP)

Paul Reid (DUP)

Matthew Scott (DUP)

Sean Waide (SF)

Andrew Park Wilson (UUP)

 

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