Unionist control has tightened across a large chunk of Co Antrim as the election results in Antrim and Newtownabbey were revealed – with Sinn Fein losing out substantially.
The two different council areas had each been dominated by unionists even before the election.
And following the vote, which decided who will govern a giant new supercouncil spanning both areas, the number of unionists has increased – even as the overall number of seats has fallen.
Previously, 44 councillors sat in Antrim and Newtownabbey combined: 27 unionists, 11 nationalists, and seven Alliance. Now out of 40 councillors 29 are unionists, seven are nationalist, and four belong to the Alliance.
Sinn Fein saw a serious bite taken out of their share of power, with their complement of seven councillors in the region slashed to three.
Alliance continued to poll quite well but were down to four seats, whilst representatives from the TUV were elected in the region for the first time, with two out of the party’s four candidates securing a seat.
Among the eye-catching results was the election of two relatives of DUP MLA Paul Girvan to the same district: his wife Mandy and son Tim (with his sister Ruth Wilson also winning a seat in Mid and East Antrim, but for the TUV).
Also successful was Phillip Brett – the 22-year-old UUPbrother of Gavin Brett, who had been murdered in Glengormley by the South East Antrim UDA in 2001.
But as far as the overall unionist picture goes, the election has both stengthened and reconfigured the mix with the DUP’s share of seats dropping and the UUP’s rising.
Previously the DUP had 17 seats across the region, and the UUP 10. Now they are much more balanced, with 15 DUP seats compared to 12 UUP ones.
“The results are very good for the unionist family,” said William McCrea MP, one of the senior DUP figures who put in an appearance at the count station in the Valley Leisure Centre.
“I think what you see is the new council is going to be a very strongly unionist-controlled council and that certainly gives great comfort to me.”
Asked about the narrowing of the DUP/UUP gap, he said the boundary changes since the last election had to be taken into account, adding: “Nevertheless, I think that’s not the important thing. I think the important thing is this council is strongly unionist.”