Gains for Greens and People Before Profit in council elections
AS in council elections in England, the Green Party is enjoying an increase in popularity that only the most optimistic of supporters could have predicted.
Claire Bailey's first election as party leader got off to a great start when first-time candidate Aine Groogan topped the poll in Botanic in Belfast, taking a seat from the UUP.
The Trinity graduate polled more first preference votes than sitting councillors with much-higher profiles, including Sinn Féin Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey and Alliance Deputy Lord Mayor Emmet McDonough-Brown.
Early in the day Stephen Dunlop was also elected for the Greens in Bangor Central and Anthony Flynn in Ormiston.
In 2015 the party won just 2.3% of the vote in Belfast, but it was clearly performing better todayand another first-time candidate, Brian Smyth, is expected to be elected in Lisnasharragh.
People Before Profit also managed to escape the spectre of Brexit and make gains both in Belfast and Derry.
Michael Collins was elected at the fourth count in the Collin area of Belfast, at the expense of long-standing Sinn Féin councillor Charlene O'Hara, while Fiona Ferguson took the sixth and final seat in Oldpark in north Belfast. Having polled just 447 first preference votes, she gained 334 transfers from the SDLPs Paul McCusker after he topped the poll.
Cheers from People Before Profit supporters as Fiona Ferguson takes the final seat in Oldpark. The party has so far doubled its seats on Belfast City Council. #BelfastLE19 #LE19 @irish_news pic.twitter.com/4bpS18Gv2u— Brendan Hughes (@brendanhughes64) May 3, 2019
Shaun Harkin also took a seat for the party in Foyleside in Derry.
Matt Collins is meanwhile expected to keep his seat in the Blackmountain ward of west Belfast, a count that will take place tomorrow.
Eamonn McCann, with a sizeable personal vote and previous experience as an MLA, is also looking likely to be returned in the Moor ward in Derry tomorrow.
A final tally of four or even five councillors will be viewed by the party as a hugely successful election after being effectively written off for its pro-Brexit stance during the EU referendum.