Local Election 2019

Mid and East Antrim Constituency Notebook

Ballymena's Seven Towers roundabout. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

FOR all that these are local elections for local people, there is little doubt that the battle for Mid and East Antrim will be seen as a litmus test for the DUP's handling of Brexit at Westminster.

The overwhelmingly unionist council is one where the party has the potential to net an outright majority of the 40 seats up for grabs.

It failed at this stated objective last time round, with the DUP vote share dropping by nine per cent from the 2011 showing and, in real terms, falling three seats short of projections for the fledgling council.

Instead, the TUV was the story of the last local government election, with the anti-agreement unionists almost doubling their vote at the expense of the DUP to take five seats.

Securing veteran Carrickfergus councillor May Beattie, who switched parties after failing to get selected for the DUP in Knockagh, will do not harm to its momentum this time around.

Predictions about the decline of the UUP were also proven premature in this constituency, where the party increased its haul of first-preference votes to 18.8 per cent and dropped just one of its 10 seats.

However, with an electoral machine which is second to none, the DUP managed to maximise its relatively disappointing dip in popularity to translate 32 per cent of the vote into 40 per cent of seats.

But it has been a tough five years for the party, which will find it hard to escape the fallout from the acrimonious collapse of the power-sharing executive after the implosion of its relationship with Sinn Féin.

It has also had the dysfunction at its centre exposed in excruciating detail through the startling revelations which emerging from the inquiry into the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme scandal.

However, as an essentially pro-unionist and pro-Brexit constituency, the DUP will be hoping it has curried some... er favour, with its ostentatious truculence at Westminster over the Irish backstop.

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An early indicator was perhaps its success in October when the party claimed Jim Brown's seat in a by-election following the death of the popular Carrick Castle independent.

How all everything will translate more widely to choices in polling booths is yet to be determined and makes for a fascinating election night.

An indication of the puckish nature of the constituency is that `independents' - particularly strong in Carrickfergus and Larne - polled just 0.8 per cent less than Sinn Féin and two per cent more than the SDLP.

The small but strong nationalist vote is expected to hold steady - although Sinn Féin will be hoping for a redistribution of the numbers in its favour.

While the party returned three councillors last time round, Paul Maguire was among 18 members who left the party two years later in support of sacked MLA Daithi McKay.

He is not standing this time around, with his wife Marian hoping to hold the seat as an independent and Sinn Féin determined to claim it back.

With SDLP veteran Declan O'Loan's retirement, republicans hope to snatch the seat with a power move of their own that sees high profile councillor Patrice Hardy move to Ballymena from Bannside.

Meanwhile, Mr O'Loan's 2014 running mate Eugene Reid will be doing his best to stymie Sinn Féin's plan.

CANDIDATES:

Ballymena (7 seats)

Matthew Armstrong (TUV)

John Carson (DUP)

Reuben Glover (DUP)

Philip Gordon (TUV)

Patrice Hardy (SF)

James Henry (Ind)

William John Logan (DUP)

Stephen Nicholl (UUP)

Patricia O'Lynn (All)

Rab Picken (UKIP)

Rodney Quigley (Ind)

Eugene Reid (SDLP)

Conal Robert Stewart (Ind)

Audrey Wales (DUP)

 

Bannside (6 seats)

Philip Burnside (All)

Ian Friary (SF)

Timothy Gaston (TUV)

Thomas Gordon (DUP)

Stewart Desmond McDonald (TUV)

William Robert McNeilly (UUP)

Jackson Bolton Minford (UUP)

Tommy Nicholl (DUP)

Andrew Hugh Wright (DUP)

 

Braid (7 seats)

Beth Adger (DUP)

Roni Browne (Ind)

Muriel Elizabeth Burnside (All)

Robin Cherry (UUP)

Brian Collins (TUV)

Julie Frew (DUP)

Sam Hanna (DUP)

Christopher Jamieson (TUV)

Marian Maguire (Ind)

Collette McAllister (SF)

William McCaughey (DUP)

Keith James Turner (UUP)

 

Carrick Castle (5 seats)

Billy Ashe (DUP)

Lauren Gray (All)

Si Harvey (Democrats and Veterans Party)

Cheryl Johnston (DUP)

Noel Jordan (Ind)

John Kennedy (UKIP)

Jim McCaw (PUP)

John McDermott (UUP)

Robin Stewart (UUP)

Nicholas Wady (Ind)

 

Coast Road (5 seats)

Andrew Clarke (DUP)

James McKeown (SF)

Maureen Morrow (UUP)

Gerardine Mulvenna (All)

Angela Smyth (DUP)

Martin Wilson (Ind)

Ruth Wilson (TUV)

 

Knockagh (5 seats)

David Barnett (PUP)

May Beattie (TUV)

Marc Collins (DUP)

Bobby Hadden (Ind)

Peter Johnston (DUP)

Lindsay Millar (UUP)

Noel Williams (All)

Andrew Wilson (UUP)

 

Larne Lough (5 seats)

Danny Donnelly (ALL)

Robert Logan (All)

Gregg McKeen (DUP)

Mark Richard William McKinty (UUP)

Paul Reid (DUP)

Robert Robinson (Green)

James Strange (TUV)

Andy Wilson (UUP)

 

Party share 2014:

DUP 33%

UUP 18.8%

TUV 15%

Alliance 9.4%

SF 6.8%

Ind 6%

SDLP 4.1%

PUP 3%

Other 3.9%

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