Down, Newry and Mourne: Unionist fears over nationalist majority

Newry and Mourne Council
Newry and Mourne Council

The Down, Newry and Mourne supercouncil will stretch from Cullyhanna to Saintfield and will have a strong nationalist majority with Sinn Fein and the SDLP fighting for the upper hand.

The boundaries will simply be the sum of Down District Council and Newry and Mourne District Council, with the addition of the strongly unionist Ballyward ward from Banbridge District Council.

NISRA population estimates for mid-2012 for Newry and Mourne council and Down council together showed the population for the two council areas to be 173,700.

Population figures for Ballyward were not known but there are 2,930 registered voters based in the ward, understood to be predominantly unionist.

In this election there are 68 candidates battling for 41 seats in the new authority.

At present the two district councils have the following make-up: Sinn Fein, 19; SDLP, 18; four DUP, six UUP and three independents whilst the Alliance, UKIP, and the Green Party all have a single councillor.

Some unionists believe the question of whether the controversial Raymond McCreesh Playpark in Newry will retain the name of the IRA hunger striker will finally come down to a vote in the new council, which could throw up some stark fault lines between the SDLP – which now opposes the name – and Sinn Fein.

Some observers feel the passing of the Banbridge ward into the new authority was part of an attempt to balance out the green-orange mix in the authority.

Danny Kennedy believes the battle between the SDLP and Sinn Fein will be “an interesting matter”.

He said: “It is going to be quite a challenge to manage such a large area,” adding that the region will have “an in-build, massive nationalist/republican majority”.

The key issues on the doorsteps, he said, are the continuity of local services in the new authority, the ongoing “political stalemate at Stormont between the two largest parties”, the On The Run letters and “bread and butter” issues.

South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells believes Sinn Fein are destined to end up on top in this authority.

“I could see them with 16-17 seats quite easily,” he said.

Unlike previous elections, he does not see any dominant issues on the doorsteps, aside from jobs at risk the aerospace factory in Kilkeel. The main issues that are being raised, he said, are issues like roads, flooding, speeding cars and EU farm payments.

The DUP man is hoping unionists can take nine seats, which he said will give them a veto against nationalist dominance similar to the petition of concern used at Stormont.

“It is the only council in Northern Ireland where there is a risk of not getting the 20 per cent unionist minority,” he added.

His party is getting support on the doorsteps, he said, from Catholic voters who find there is now no nationalist party willing to support a traditional definition of marriage.

“There is very strong support for our moral stance on gay marriage and the relaxation of gambling laws.”

SDLP MLA Sean Rogers believes the question of SDLP or Sinn Fein dominance is “too close to call”.

He said the number one issues on the doorsteps are “jobs and the economy”, the farming and construction the primary industries, as well as fishing in south Down.

The level of emigration is also a “major concern” to the nationalist community.

Other issues of concern are the “lack of progress” at the Executive on issues such as education and welfare reform, he said.

Sinn Fein believes all 18 of its candidates will be returned – four of them aged under 30.

“While this will not give the party a majority in the new council,” a spokeswoman said, “this strength will enable us to pursue a number of key projects in the area.”

She addded: “During our current electoral canvass of the area the issue which has been raised by most people is the arrest and subsequent release of party leader Gerry Adams. The vast majority of people commenting on this incident have correctly assessed the motives behind this arrest and the desired outcome to disrupt Sinn Féin’s election campaign.”

Your candidates:


Michael Carr (SDLP)

Sinéad Ennis (SF)

Gillian Fitzpatrick (SDLP)

Mark Gibbons (SF)

Finbarr Lambe (Independent)

Declan McAteer (SDLP)

Wilma McCullough (DUP)

Connaire McGreevy (SDLP)

William Mitchell (UUP)

Mickey Ruane (SF)

Jarlath Tinnelly (Independent)


Naomi Bailie (SF)

Dermot Curran (SDLP)

Cadogan Enright (Independent)

Graham Furey (UUP)

Éamonn McConvey (SF)

Colin McGrath (SDLP)

Yvonne Moore (DUP)

Gareth Sharvin (SDLP)


Charlie Casey (SF)

Jacinta Duffy (SDLP)

Valerie Harte (SF)

Davy Hyland (Independent)

Liz Kimmins (SF)

Joshua Lowry (UUP)

James Malone (Independent)

Kevin McAteer (SDLP)

Peter Gerard McEvoy (SDLP)

Gary John Stokes (SDLP)


Terry Andrews (SDLP)

Patrick Brown (Alliance)

Robert Burgess (UUP)

Mickey Coogan (Independent)

Philip Hamilton (TUV)

Harry Harvey (DUP)

Eddie Hughes (SF)

Walter Lyons (UUP)

Alistair Straney (NI21)

Billy Walker (DUP)


Stephen Burns (SF)

Audrey Byrne (SDLP)

Patrick Clarke (Alliance)

Garth Craig (DUP)

Shane King (SDLP)

Alan Lewis (UKIP)

Matthew Morrison (NI21)

Mark Murnin (SDLP)

Pól Ó Gribín (SF)

Desmond Patterson (UUP)


Geraldine Donnelly (SDLP)

Terry Hearty (SF)

Dáire Hughes (SF)

Mickey Larkin (SF)

Kate Loughran (SDLP)

Lavelle McIlwrath (DUP)

Roisin Mulgrew (SF)

Barra Ó Muirí (SF)

David Samuel Taylor (UUP)


Willie Clarke (SF)

Laura Devlin (SDLP)

Sean Doran (SF)

Glyn Hanna (DUP)

Annette Holden (NI21)

Jill Macauley (UUP)

Ciaran McAvoy (Alliance)

Harold McKee (UUP)

Brian Quinn (SDLP)

Henry Reilly (UKIP)