Derry & Strabane Election 19: 21 councillors elected with gains for the SDLP and breakthroughs for People Before Profit, Aontú and Alliance

Gains for the SDLP.
Gains for the SDLP.

With the results in for four of the seven District Electoral Areas on Derry City & Strabane District Council and 21 of the local authority's seats now filled it's been a good day for the SDLP and a great day for People Before Profit, Aontú and the Alliance Party, all of whom made breakthroughs in Thursday's election.

The SDLP has made gains on Sinn Féin in both the Ballyarnett DEA and the Derg DEA, taking seats off their rivals in each of the areas

In Ballyarnett Angela Dobbins topped the poll with 3,797 first preference votes closely followed by Brian Tierney (1,235 first preferences) and Rory Farrell (1,170 first preferences) all of whom were returned as councillors.

The SDLP's decision to run three candidates in Ballyarnett paid dividends with 3,797 first preferences (39.59%) returning three councillors when 3,274 votes (42.58%) spread across a four man ticket returned only two in 2014.

Tierney and Farrell had to wait until the latter stages of the count to be formally declared but their election was never in doubt given their healthy positions after the first count came in.

Sinn Féin, by contrast, ran four candidates, Sandra Duffy (899 first preferences), Aileen Mellon (848 first preferences), Caoimhe McKnight (656 first preferences) and Neil McLaughlin (538 first preferences) but had a disappointing election.

The four secured 2,941 (30.7%) of the poll compared with the 3,240 first preferences (42.13%) its three man ticket secured in 2014. Sandra Duffy and Aileen Mellon were ultimately elected but Sinn Féin dropped a seat in the area.

The spectacular performance of Aontú candidate Anne McCloskey, who received 1,032 first preferences, and has been elected, may or may not have had an impact on the Sinn Féin total but it was one of the major breakthroughs of this election thus far.

Meanwhile, in the Derg DEA that takes in the Castlederg, Sion Mills and Newtownstewart areas southwest of Strabane, the SDLP tactic of consolidating its vote around smaller numbers of candidates, in this case one candidate, Cara Hunter, rather than the two it ran in the area in 2014, reaped rewards.

She was returned at the expense of a former mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Maoilíosa McHugh, who lost his seat.

She will be joined on the new Council by Derek Hussey of the UUP who topped the poll with 1,267 votes, Sinn Féin's Kieran McGuire (1,075) and Ruairí McHugh (1,086), and the DUP's Keith Kerrigan (1,090). Veteran DUP councillor Thomas Kerrigan was not returned.

The story in the Foyleside DEA was that of Mary Durkan's poll-topping performance for the SDLP and the impressive outing by the People Before Profit Allliance's Shaun Harkin, who was returned as the first ever councillor for the party in Derry.

For the SDLP it was a case of 'holding what we have' with the party returning both Mary Durkan (1,231) and Shauna Cusack (1,129) with its third candidate Lilian Seenoi-Barr (721) polling respectably but never in the running for the final seat.

It was Shaun Harkin's 977 first preferences (13.27 percent) - up on the 232 (3.64%) secured by the PBPA in the DEA in 2014 - that turned heads, however, and turned out to be a watershed for the party in the city.

Sinn Féin's Mickey Cooper (888 first preferences) was comfortably elected thanks to transfers from excluded running mate Hayleigh Fleming but Eric McGinley lost his seat in a battle with Independent Candidate Sean Carr that went down to the wire.

Councillor Carr actually conceded defeat and went home but eventually returned to the count centre and was elected on the back of Shauna Cusack transfers.

In the otherwise predictable Faughan DEA where the DUP's Graham Warke (1,050) and Ryan McCready (940) and Sinn Féin's Paul Fleming (854) were certain of election, an otherwise good night for the SDLP was marred by the early elimination of sitting councillor Gus Hastings.

The party's tactic of consolidation in other areas - one candidate in Derg and three candidates in Ballyarnett, for example - was not replicated and its three man ticket of Gus Hastings (491), Jim McKeever (565) and Brenda Stevenson (693) returned just one councillor in McKeever.

However, the story of the election in Faughan was that of the first Alliance Party councillor in Derry since the 1980s.

Rachael Ferguson (783) out-polled Independent Paul Hughes (733) who many tipped as the most likely to take a seat from the SDLP in the DEA.

It was the Alliance Party newcomer, who was persuaded to run by Naomi Long when she complained to the party leader about the lack of female candidates in Derry and Strabane, who made the remarkable breakthrough on Thursday.

She was elected after Stage 6 of the vote having amassed 1012.49 votes. Her election was at the expense of the SDLP.

Elected Councillors

SDLP - Ballyarnett DEA: Angela Dobbins, Brian Tierney, Rory Farrell, 3; Derg DEA: Cara Hunter, 1; Faughan DEA: Jim McKeever, 1; Foyleside DEA: Mary Durkan, Shauna Cusack, 2.

Seven councillors - up one on 2014.

Sinn Féin - Ballyarnett DEA: Aileen Mellon, Sandra Duffy, 2; Derg DEA, Ruairí McHugh, Kieran McGuire, 2; Faughan DEA: Paul Fleming, 1; Foyleside DEA: Mickey Cooper, 1.

Six councillors - down three on 2014.

DUP - Derg DEA: Keith Kerrigan, 1; Faughan DEA, Graham Warke, Ryan McCready, 2.

Three councillors - no change.

Alliance - Faughan DEA: Rachael Ferguson, 1.

One councillor - up one on 2014.

Aontú - Ballyarnett DEA: Anne McCloskey, 1.

One councillor - up one on 2014.

Independents - Foyleside DEA: Sean Carr, 1.

One councillor - no change.

People Before Profit Alliance - Foyleside DEA: Shaun Harkin, 1.

One councillor - up on on 2014.

Ulster Unionist Party - Derg DEA: Derek Hussey, 1.

One councillor - no change.