DUP consolidates unionist vote as UUP and TUV suffer major losses

TUV wiped out on Causeway Coast and Glens as DUP strengthens grip

Sunday, 5th May 2019, 4:29 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th May 2019, 4:38 pm
DUP MLA Mervyn Storey (right) congratulates party colleague John Finlay on holding on to his seat in Causeway Coast and Glens Council

Already the largest party by a slim margin at the last election in 2014, the DUP made major gains this time around as it consolidated the unionist vote.

Its share of first preferences rose from 26.9% to 30.3%, and the party secured three more seats than it had five years ago.

However, it was a very different story for the Ulster Unionists and the TUV.

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In what is a relatively strong constituency for the TUV, the party found itself completely wiped out, losing both its seats – one to the DUP and another to Sinn Fein.

And while there were some notable successes for the UUP – including Darryl Wilson topping the poll in Ballymoney and Joan Baird narrowly retaining her seat in the Glens after a close-run battle with the DUP – the overall picture for the party was one of disappointment as its share of the vote slumped from 17.3% to 15.2%.

The party ended up with three fewer seats than in 2014, returning just seven councillors this time around – half the number of the DUP.

The DUP councillor John Finlay – who romped home in Ballymoney with 1,322 first preference votes – said his party’s performance in the constituency was a “huge vote of confidence” from the electorate.

He added: “This is a good day for the DUP. It is a clear message that we are the party to lead the country.”

When asked if the party’s performance signalled that voters supported its policy on Brexit, he replied: “I think it is a ringing endorsement of that.”

So while the DUP will ultimately be pleased with its performance, the result has been somewhat offset by the fact that the combined number of unionist seats on the council has dropped to 22, compared to 25 in 2014.

Another factor that will have taken some of the lustre off the DUP’s achievement is that Sinn Fein made some notable gains of its own.

The republican party’s share of the vote improved from 19.9% to 21.9%, and it secured nine seats compared with seven in 2014.

Elsewhere, PUP candidate Russell Watton repeated his success story of five years ago when he once again topped the poll in Coleraine – this time with an additional 548 first preference votes.

Alliance’s surge across NI continued here, with the party’s share of first preference votes rocketing from 3.9% to 8%. It returned two councillors compared with one at the last poll.

While the SDLP’s vote share reduced by over three percentage points (from 12.5% to 9.2%), the party managed to hold on to its six seats.