Northern Ireland

Former SDLP councillor and Belfast deputy mayor Paul McCusker wins Oldpark seat as independent

Newly-independent Paul McCusker celebrates taking a seat on Belfast City Council
Newly-independent Paul McCusker celebrates taking a seat on Belfast City Council Newly-independent Paul McCusker celebrates taking a seat on Belfast City Council

Former SDLP councillor Paul McCusker has retained his seat in north Belfast.

The community worker and social activist, who quit the SDLP just weeks out from the election, received 1747 first preference votes in the Oldpark DEA.

The former Belfast deputy lord mayor, who was first elected in 2016, believed he was "best placed" to run as an independent in Thursday's election having become "frustrated and disheartened with politics at a central and local level".

Mr McCusker is the founder of the St Patrick's Soup Kitchen and the People's Kitchen food bank, as well as a campaigner against homelessness, social deprivation and addiction.

His decision in March to stand as an independent March, coupled with the SDLP's recent suspension of Causeway Coast & Glens candidate Ryan Barkley, meant  the party was already two seats down on its 2019 tally of 59 going into Thursday's election.

Sinn Féin's Nichola Bradley was the first councillor returned in Oldpark, having received 1870 first preference votes.

Meanwhile, the SDLP's Lilian Seenoi Barr is understood to be the first ever black person to serve on a council in the north after she took a seat on Derry & Strabane Council.

She was co-opted onto the council in 2021 to replace Mary Durkan.