Political leaders cast votes as NI elects new councillors

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Northern Ireland’s political leaders joined hundreds of thousands of people across the Province yesterday in casting their votes in the local government elections.

DUP leader Arlene Foster voted in the Co Fermanagh village of Brookeborough, shortly after 9am.

DUP leader Arlene Foster votes in the local election in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh.  Pic by: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

DUP leader Arlene Foster votes in the local election in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh. Pic by: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

She encouraged all to vote and “have their democratic say on the future of our local councils”.

“Local councils are hugely important in relation to the governance of Northern Ireland so it is important that people come out and have their say,” she said.

“I hope that they come out and give the DUP the strength to deliver, right across Northern Ireland.

“We have had a very good canvass right across NI and people are saying that they want to come out and support us, so I am looking forward to results day.”

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill voted in Clonoe, Co Tyrone.

She described the election as an “opportunity to stand firm against Brexit and an opportunity to stand firm against the arrogance of the DUP”.

“It’s also an opportunity to stand firm for equality, for rights and for Irish unity,” she added.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann voted in Ballymena, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood voted in Londonderry and Alliance leader Naomi Long cast her vote in east Belfast.

A total of 819 local government election candidates are standing across 11 council areas.

Among noteworthy races for seats will be Sinn Fein’s former West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff’s efforts to return from the political wilderness.

He was forced to step aside after offending the families of those shot dead by republicans at the height of the Troubles in Kingsmills, Co Armagh.

Mr McElduff is running for a place on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

In Newtownabbey, the DUP’s first openly gay candidate is seeking election.

Alison Bennington is standing for a party which has repeatedly vetoed same-sex marriage and holds strong Christian values.

It is the first poll since gay journalist Lyra McKee, 29, was shot dead by dissident republicans during disturbances in Londonderry in April.

Her death prompted revulsion against the group blamed for the killing and a call by a Catholic priest for politicians to redouble efforts to restore devolved power-sharing.

Vote tallying will begin at 8am today and the count is expected to run into tomorrow,