Local Election 2019

Constituency Notebook: Unionist stronghold under threat in Antrim and Newtownabbey

Antrim and Newtownabbey is an electoral area dominated by unionist representatives
Seanín Graham

ANGER over the Stormont stalemate and Brexit shambles could make a dent in the make-up of a council area dominated by unionists. 

Stretching from Toome on the northwest corner of Lough Neagh to Glengormley on the outskirts of north Belfast, this supercouncil has a combined population of 138,000 and an electorate of 94,348. A total of 65 candidates are vying for 40 seats across Antrim and Newtownabbey’s seven wards.

One of the most high-profile runners is the DUP’s Alison Bennington – the party’s first openly gay politician, who is standing in the Glengormley area. 

With its opposition to same-sex marriage and controversial views on ‘conversion’ therapy, the party’s choice to field Ms Bennington to gain a third DUP seat in this ward will attract huge interest on polling day. 

Read more: 

Another hotly contested seat will be in the Airport constituency, which takes in Crumlin and Mallusk and has seen an 8% population rise since the last local elections in 2014, largely due to a spike in new housing developments. Insiders say there will be an “almighty scramble” for its fifth and final seat, with Sinn Féin and Alliance both fielding new candidates – but veteran SDLP councillor Thomas Burns is expected to stay put.

On the doorsteps, opposition to a hugely controversial waste incinerator in Mallusk has re-emerged after a fresh planning proposal was put forward – despite a High Court ruling last year deeming its approval “unlawful” in the absence of a minister.

If successful, the £240 million development will be located close to hundreds of homes as well as an Irishlanguage primary school, health centre and St Enda’s GAA club. Meanwhile, the battle for Antrim is raging with Sinn Féin pushing hard to win back the sole nationalist seat from the SDLP’s Roisin Lynch. Twenty years ago, the area was an Ulster Unionist stronghold with the party retaining four out of the five seats for most of the 1990s.

However, the steady rise of Alliance’s Neil Kelly could create a major upset – with some predicting he may even be the first non-unionist to top the poll in the town. Antrim also produced one of the last local election’s shock defeats, with long-standing DUP councillor and deputy mayor Brian Graham losing his seat after 13 years. In Ballyclare, former Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan has been selected as a runner by his party.

After losing his South Antrim Westminster seat in 2017, Mr Kinahan confessed he missed frontline politics. The Macedon ward – which includes Rathcoole and Carnmoney – hit the headlines in February after a row broke out among the DUP over its decision to select a convicted drink-driver to run as a candidate. Former Antrim and Newtownabbey mayor Thomas Hogg admitted to the crime in May 2018 and was suspended from the council and the party.

North Down and Ards councillor Tom Smith took to Twitter to say he was “disgusted” by the decision to select Mr Hogg – a view backed by former DUP special adviser Timothy Cairns. Candidates who have been pacing the 274 square miles of households over the past month have repeatedly pointed to voter apathy. Fears about the impact of Brexit have also been aired by irate constituents and may influence some younger Remainer voters on polling day – who previously gave their first preference to a unionist candidate.

Frustration over the collapse of Stormont and its impact on the health service – Antrim Area hospital has been plagued by waiting list problems – and schools has also been expressed – as opposed to the usual breadand-butter issues. While the DUP and UUP will likely retain their overall majority, the race is very much open for nationalist gains.


Airport (5 seats)

Thomas Burns (SDLP)

Anne-Marie Logue (SF)

Matthew Magill (DUP)

Ben Mallon (DUP)

Vikki McAuley (All)

Paul Michael (UUP)

Mervyn Rea (UUP)

Cathy Rooney (SF)

Antrim (6 seats)

Richard Cairns (TUV)

Adrian Cochrane-Watson (Ind)

Paul Dunlop (DUP)

Neil Kelly (All)

Roisin Lynch (SDLP)

Gerard Magee (SF)

Karl McMeekin (DUP)

Jim Montgomery (UUP)

John Smyth (DUP)

Leah Smyth (UUP)

Ballyclare (5 seats)

Jeannie Archibald (DUP)

David Arthurs (Ind)

Gary English (All)

Mandy Girvan (DUP)

Danny Kinahan (UUP)

Vera McWilliam (UUP)

Austin Orr (DUP)

Norrie Ramsay (UUP)

Michael Stewart (Ind)

Dunsilly (5 seats)

Linda Clarke (DUP)

Henry Cushinan (SF)

Glenn Finlay (All)

Jordan Greer (DUP)

Andrew Maguire (SF)

Roderick Swann (UUP)

Gareth Thomas (UUP)

Ryan Wilson (SDLP)

Glengormley Urban (7 seats)

Alison Bennington (DUP)

Phillip Brett (DUP)

Samantha Burns (DUP)

Mark Cosgrove (UUP)

Michael Goodman (SF)

Rosie Kinnear (SF)

Michael Maguire (UUP)

Noreen McClelland (SDLP)

Julian McGrath (All)

Paul Veronica (Green)

Macedon (6 seats)

Robert Foster (UUP)

Paul Hamill (DUP)

Robert Hill (UKIP)

Thomas Hogg (DUP)

David Hollis (TUV)

Dean McCullough (DUP)

Taylor McGrann (SF)

Victor Robinson (DUP)

Stafford Ward (Ind)

Billy Webb (All)

Three Mile Water (6 seats)

Fraser Agnew (UUP)

Norman Boyd (TUV)

Tom Campbell (All)

Mark Cooper (DUP)

Sam Flanagan (DUP)

Julie Gilmour (All)

Gary Grattan (Ind)

Stephen McCarthy (UUP)

Stephen Ross (DUP)

Raymond Stewart (UKIP)

Party share 2014

DUP - 32.2%

UUP - 22%

Alliance - 12.7%

SF - 12.4%

SDLP - 8.6%

TUV - 5.7%

NI21 - 3.1%

PUP - 2.9%

Inds - 0.3%

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