Belfast City Council is shaping up to be very interesting.
Today’s results confirm the trend of former Ulster Unionist voters shifting decisively to Alliance. For example, Alliance has its own heartland constituency now, with 3 party councillors elected to Victoria- granted, it traditionally claimed two seats there, but a third is a phenomenal achievement in an overwhelmingly unionist constituency.
The bolstered Alliance vote has meant that Sinn Fein’s Pottinger gain came at unionism’s expense instead of Alliance, with Maire Hendron holding on comfortably. The demise of the Belfast Ulster Unionist Party is starkly in evidence across the city, with the party wiped out in Oldpark and missing a seat in the predominantly unionist Pottinger.
Meanwhile, the SDLP have regained a councillor in Lower Falls, with the two Falls constituencies returning 8 SF and 2 SDLP councillors. The SDLP also held their solitary seat in Oldpark, with Sinn Fein claiming three seats.
Tomorrow will show whether the UUP’s Court candidate,
Bill Manwaring Bobby McConnell, can make a breakthrough and if Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O’Muilleor can claim a seat in Balmoral and, as importantly, at who’s expense. In addition, Castle DEA will show whether Sinn Fein can match the performance of the party’s candidates in the nearby Antrim Line DEA of Newtownabbey, where Sinn Fein captured two seats and the SDLP 1 seat.