Northern Ireland

Independents aim to return in Ards and North Down, while Sinn Féin hopes to score first ever seat

Constituency Notebook

Scrabo Tower, one of Ards and North Down's most famous landmarks.
Scrabo Tower, one of Ards and North Down's most famous landmarks.

Ards and North Down remains the only council area in the north in which Sinn Féin does not hold a seat, but a former championship-winning hurler is hoping to score the party’s first win there this month.

Portaferry GAA star-turned publican Noel Sands is Sinn Féin’s sole candidate anywhere in the borough, standing in the Ards Peninsula DEA with hopes of increasing its minimal vote share of 0.5 per cent in 2019.

However, the former Down senior star faces an uphill battle in the unionist-dominated region, comprising seven DEAs, which at the last election returned 14 DUP councillors with 33.4 per cent of all votes.

That result was a decrease of two seats for the DUP compared to 2014, when it returned 17 reps, while the Alliance Party saw its share jump from just over 13 per cent to over 22 per cent, earning it 10 seats – an increase of three.

Constituency Notebooks:

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  • DUP face nervous wait in unionist dominated Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
  • Belfast City Council a microcosm of the north
  • Unionists likely to remain majority in Antrim, Newtownabbey - but SF, Alliance eyeing more gains

That knocked the Ulster Unionists into third place for overall seats, with the party losing one seat even though candidates managed to earn an extra 851 ballots compared to the party's 2014 return.

Outside of Belfast, Ards and North Down is the most popular borough for the Green Party, which despite almost doubling its vote share in 2019 to over 10 per cent, only held its three seats – again due in part to the Alliance surge.

The SDLP, meanwhile, held onto its sole seat last time around, while its share dropped slightly to 3.2 per cent, but the party is pinning hopes of bucking the downward trend on three candidates.

As for the TUV, the party aims to capitalise on any wavering unionist support for the DUP by fielding no less than six candidates.

That roster, however, does not include Stephen Cooper, who was elected for Jim Allister's party in 2019, but quit to become an independent in February of this year following an allegation of harassment.

He said he was "disappointed" the party did not back him following the allegation. Mr Cooper narrowly missed out on clinching what would have been the TUV’s second-ever Assembly seat during last year’s Stormont election, when as a Strangford candidate he secured an impressive first-preference vote increase to 12.7 per cent from 2017’s 3.4 per cent.

Another former party man now hoping to be returned as an independent is ex-DUP rep Wesley Irvine.

He quit the party in 2022, expressing concerns that the DUP had been slow to react to the Northern Ireland Protocol. The councillor was following in the footsteps of his colleague Alex Easton, for whom he works in the North Down assembyman's constituency office.

Mr Easton cut ties with the DUP the year before after 21 years as a member, just hours after Jeffrey Donaldson was ratified as leader.

Meanwhile, among sitting independents hoping for re-election are former DUP councillors Bill Keery - who was suspended by the party in 2021 over an “ill-judged” comment following the death of Prince Philip – and Tom Smith, who resigned from the party upon being deselected ahead of the 2019 election after backing a move to light up Ards Town Hall in rainbow colours to mark LGBT Awareness Week.


Ards Peninsula

Robert Hugh Adair - DUP (sitting)

Joe Boyle - SDLP (sitting)

Nigel Edmund - DUP (sitting)

Boyd Ireland - Independent

David Kerr - DUP

Lorna McAlpine - Alliance (sitting)

Gillian McNaull - Green Party

Noel Sands - Sinn Féin

Eddie Thompson - DUP (sitting)

Tom Thompson - TUV

Pete Wray - UUP

Bangor Central

Craig Blaney - UUP (sitting)

Alistair Cathcart - DUP (sitting)

Karen Douglas - Alliance (sitting)

Stephen John Dunlop - Green Party (sitting)

Alex Harbinson - Alliance 

Wesley Irvine - Independent (sitting)

Rachel McCord - UUP 

Chris McCracken - Alliance 

Ray McKimm - Independent (sitting)

Dean McSorely - DUP

Tim Mullen - NI Conservatives 

Peter Wilson  - TUV 

Bangor East and Donaghadee

Mark Brooks - UUP (sitting)

David Chambers - UUP (sitting)

James Cochrane - DUP 

Ciara Henry - Green Party 

Hannah Irwin - Alliance (sitting)

Bill Keery - Independent (sitting)

Paul Leeman - NI Conservatives

Janice MacArthur - DUP (sitting)

Gillian McCollum - Alliance 

Tom Smith - Independent (sitting)

Bangor West

Colin Breen - NI Conservatives

Christine Creighton - Alliance

Jennifer Gilmour - DUP (sitting)

John Gordon - TUV

Stephen Hollywood - UUP 

Peter Martin - DUP 

Tony McCann - SDLP 

Barry McKee - Green Party (sitting)

Alison McWhinney - Alliance 

Susan Prentice - Independent

Huw Stacey - Alliance 


Rachel Ashe - Alliance 

Stephen Cooper - Independent (sitting)

Trevor Cummings  - DUP (sitting)

Libby Douglas - DUP 

Patricia Morgan - Alliance (sitting)

Sam Patterson - TUV

Cory Quinn - Green Party 

John Sloan - Independent 

Philip Smith - UUP (sitting)

Holywood and Clandeboye

Diane Adams - TUV 

Helen Corbett - Alliance

Alan Graham - DUP 

Carl McClean - DUP (sitting)

Linzi McLaren - UUP 

Martin McRandal - Alliance (sitting)

David Rossiter - Alliance 

Deirdre Vaughan - SDLP 

Rachel Woods - Green Party (sitting)


Eddie Allen - TUV

Naomi Armstrong - DUP (sitting)

Ian Cox - Independent 

Steven Irvine - Independent (sitting)

Colin Kennedy - DUP (sitting)

Ben King - Independent 

Maurice Macartney - Green Party

Alan McDowell - Alliance (sitting)

Stephen McIlveen - DUP (sitting)

Vicky Moore - Alliance (sitting)

Richard Smart - UUP (sitting)