Council above average on gender balance

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Derry City and Strabane is one of just two authorities in the North where female representation is above the EU average.

A new analysis of the local elections has found the election of 13 women to Derry and Strabane District Council meant the district was doing better than almost all other areas in terms of closing the gender gap in politics.

The 40 seat council is now 32.5 per cent female, according to the joint report by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service (L&RS) and the Northern Ireland Assembly Research and Information Service (RaISe).

Only Causeway, Coast and Glens, where there are 15 female councillors, (37.5 per cent) was there a better gender balance. The average across the North was 26.4 per cent. In Europe it’s 32 per cent.

Only Derry and Strabane and Causeway Coast and Glens exceeded the EU average.

In May five woman councillors were returned for both Sinn Féin and the SDLP and one each from Alliance, Aontú and the DUP. Michaela Boyle and Cara Hunter currently hold the positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectively.

Another main takeaway from the joint Oireachtas/Assembly report was that turnout in Derry and Strabane was third highest in the North.

Fifty-seven per cent of the electorate came out which was well above the Northern Ireland average of 52.7 per cent and behind only Mid Ulster (60 per cent) and Fermanagh and Omagh (62.4 per cent).

The study also reports that the bad day for Sinn Féin in Derry when its seat share dropped from 16 to 11 was not reflected across the North where Sinn Féin maintained its number of councillors (105) and remains the second largest party in local government.

Sinn Féin also received the second highest first preference vote (23.2 per cent) across Northern Ireland.

And the SDLP, which gained one seat and was up from 10 to 11 in Derry and Strabane did better here than elsewhere in the North, where it lost seven (10.6 per cent) of its councillors. The SDLP received the fourth highest first preference vote(12 per cent) in Northern Ireland as a whole.

Meanwhile, the traditional four main parties won 361 seats, down 28.

Those parties now hold 78.1 per cent of all seats (down from 84.2 per cent in 2014. Alliance increased its representation by 65.6 per cent (up 21 to 53) with two of those gains in Derry where Rachael Ferguson and Philip McKinney were elected. People Before Profit (PBP) Alliance increased its number of councillors by 4 to 5 with Shaun Harkin and Eamonn McCann returned in Derry.