Northern Ireland

SDLP Derry election win 'confirmed' following Alliance challenge

SDLP councillor Martin Reilly
SDLP councillor Martin Reilly SDLP councillor Martin Reilly

A count has concluded for a Derry City and Strabane District Council seat after the Alliance Party made a legal challenge.

Party councillor Philip McKinney lost his seat by a handful of votes in the May local election, with the SDLP taking the final seat in the Waterside district.

The Alliance Party raised questions over whether the votes had been counted correctly, prompting a continuation of the count beginning at 10am today in the Foyle Arena.

This afternoon, the SDLP said the conclusion of the count had confirmed their councillor's election, but that the results would be formally declared by the High Court next week.

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The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland said in a statement: "An initial hearing of the election court took place on August 7 and the court directed that the sealed ballot papers should be opened and the Waterside DEA count continue from stage 7 until conclusion.

"Prior to the court hearing, an approach to handling this issue was agreed by all parties and this formed the basis for the court order."

The count concluded on Wednesday morning and a report is to be compiled for a hearing expected on Thursday August 17 for a final determination.

The Alliance Party won 67 seats in May's local elections, an increase of 14 on 2019.

Sinn Féin took 144 seats, an increase of 39, while the DUP was unchanged on 122.

The UUP got 54 seats and the SDLP won 39, with smaller parties and independents taking the remaining 36 seats.

The SDLP's Martin Reilly took the seventh and final seat in the Waterside district of Derry City and Strabane District Council.

In a statement issued by the party, Mr Reilly said: "I'm delighted that the democratic process has now been fulfilled in the Waterside and I can continue to fight hard for everyone across our communities.

"I am immensely grateful to everyone who has supported me and will work hard over the next four years to repay their faith.

"I look forward to the formal certification of the result in court next week."

Party leader Colum Eastwood said: "I'm delighted for Martin today - he works incredibly hard for people from every community in the Waterside every day and that's why they've chosen him to be their representative.

"He's had a long wait but the result is a testament to his approach to fighting hard for every community in the long and proud tradition of the SDLP."