Community heads to the polls as 40 council seats to be decided

Local people will go to the polls tomorrow to cast their votes in the first Local Government Election since the merger between Derry City & Strabane Councils officially became operational.

Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 11:13 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 11:18 am
Ballot boxes being unloaded at Foyle Arena during a previous count in Derry, (Photo: Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye).

A total of 75 people have put themselves forward as candidates for the 40 seats available across the seven electoral districts within the amalgamated council- Foyleside, Ballyarnett, The Moor, Waterside, Faughan, Sperrin and Derg.

Voting will take place at schools and facilities across the city and district this Thursday, May 2, with polling stations opening from 7.00 am through to 10.00 pm.

Voters will be marking their ballot papers numerically in order of preference for the candidates standing in their area.

The counting of the votes will get under way at the Foyle Arena on Friday morning and it could well be Saturday before the full make-up of the new council is known.

The turnout will be announced at the count centre,, which will then be followed by the quota of votes for candidates in each area.

At present , Sinn Fein is the largest party on Derry City & Strabane District Council with 16 councillors, while there are eight SDLP, seven independents, seven DUP and two UUP.

Among those who have announced their intention not to contest their seats are retiring veteran Waterside Councillor Mary Hamilton, Foyleside Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly and the Sperrin DUP Councillor Rhonda Hamilton.

Two sitting local representatives left the SDLP since they were elected to the council five years ago and have continued as independent councillors, and both Sean Carr and Patsy Kelly will be standing as independents this time around, while former Independent Councillor Maurice Devenney is returning to his DUP roots .

Other sitting councillors have been co-opted after their predecessors either retired or stood down and will be tested at the ballot box for the first time. Those who were elected in 2014 and who have since retired or vacated their seats are long-standing Sinn Fein representative Tony Hassan, Gerard Diver (SDLP), Elisha McCallion (Sinn Fein, now MP), Dee Quigley (independent), Colly Kelly (Sinn Fein) and Gary Middleton (DUP, now MLA).

Parties hoping to make gains and win seats on the council include the Alliance Party, People Before Profit and newly formed party Aontu, while there are also a number of new independent candidates challenging.

The number of the seats to decided in each area are - Sperrin (7); Waterside (7); Faughan (5); Ballyarnett (6) The Moor (5); Derg (5); Foyleside (5).