Background to Council Elections: Ards and North Down Council…

This Council has 40 councillors. The DUP, UUP and Alliance each had representation in all seven District Electoral Areas (DEA’s) at the last election, Greens in 3 and the SDLP in 1. Whilst still having a majority of votes, unionists recorded their biggest drop in vote share of any Council.

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Three Independents were elected. Two have had their votes included with the unionist share – Tom Smith (Bangor East & Donaghadee) who was elected in 2014 for the DUP and Jimmy Menagh (Newtownards) who was elected as Independent on a unionist platform. The third, Ray McKimm (Bangor Central), is included with ‘other’. For the reasons for that classification please see the Bangor Central section below.

The make up of the Council in 2014 and 2019 is shown in the following chart.

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Six seats changed hands. The DUP lost in Bangor West and Holywood to Alliance, who also took a seat from the UUP in Newtownards. Another UUP loss took place in Bangor Central to Independent McKimm. By retaining his seat in Bangor East Independent Smith inflicted a further loss on his old party, the DUP. The UUP picked up a gain in Bangor East by holding the seat which Alan Chambers had retained as an Independent in 2014 before he joined the UUP to contest an Assembly seat.

The most significant changes in vote shares were the 9% increase for Alliance and the 6% for Greens. In addition the cumulative loss for Other Unionists (largely UKIP and Conservatives), Independent Unionists and TUV starved the DUP of many of the transfers which had bolstered its seat tally in previous years.

Four of the DEA’s fall within the North Down constituency and three within Strangford. The Assembly votes in those constituencies suggest that the UUP and the Greens could be under pressure here in May. The total unionist vote share was 3 points up between the council elections and the Assembly in North Down and static in Strangford. The DUP will be hoping to pull back some ground but at the same time faces challenges from the TUV. Any Alliance gains would most likely come from the Greens.

To make the coming election more complicated, four of 2019 intake are no longer in the parties for which they were elected. These changes are not represented in the chart above.

Outlook by DEA

As well as giving the historical data for the last election in 2019, each table contains two projections.

The first, headed ‘Based on Ass’22’, shows an estimate for the change in the party quota based on the change in its vote between 2019 and 2022 in the relevant constituency or constituencies. I then show where this might put a seat under threat or present a possible gain.

The second projection is changed in the light of the headline figures in the latest Lucid Talk poll. However, since the detailed tables are not published until later, I have been unable to use some of the information I normally rely on.

I have departed from the Assembly vote and the Lucid Talk poll in one respect. I have assumed that Independents who were elected in 2019 will hold onto all or most of their vote in this election, based on the tendency for this to happen in previous council elections.

Please remember that this is not intended to be a prediction. In contrast to my conservative treatment of Independents seeking re-election, I have included party gains and losses which are a long shot, as well as those which are more likely. This is to reflect the degree of uncertainty inherent in making these estimates. Treat them as a guide as to what to look out for, or for making your own judgements.

My Best bet for each DEA is just a bit of fun. It is too simplified to capture all the possibilities and may therefore be wrong as often as it is right.

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Five of the six outgoing councillors are up for election again. The UUP have a new runner who looks vulnerable to the TUV or DUP.

I have found no information on Independent candidate Ireland Boyd.

Best bet: TUV to take the UUP seat.

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All six outgoing councillors are standing again.

Ray McKimm was elected in 2019 as an Independent on exclusively local issues. His votes did not transfer. Last year he stood unsuccessfully for the Assembly when nearly two thirds of his transfers went to Greens or Alliance.

Wesley Irvine was elected as DUP from 2005 to 2019 but switched to Independent last year to support ex-DUP MLA Alex Easton who won re-election to the Assembly as an Independent. Because he has been a councillor for 18 years I am assuming that he retains between 0.3 and 0.4 of a quota, largely from the DUP.

7 unionist candidates chasing 3 unionist seats, and five ‘other’ candidates competing for 3 ‘other’ seats. Plenty of room for slip ups there. The UUP decision to stand 2 makes no obvious sense, and in a crowded field risks costing them what should have been a safe seat. The 3 for Alliance makes sense for a party sitting on 15% in the polls for most of the past year. With over 2 quotas, at 15% the Green seat looks to be theirs for the taking, and the UUP seat might almost be in their grasp if they were lucky with the transfers. But if the latest poll proves correct they will almost certainly have to settle for 2.

Best bet: Alliance to take Green seat.

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Description automatically generated Four of the six outgoing councillors are seeking re-election – the two UUP and two as Independents.

Tom Smith was elected as an Independent in 2019, but was originally won in 2014 for the DUP.

Bill Keery was elected for DUP in 2014 and 2019. He also switched to Independent to support Alex Easton, who signed his nomination papers for this election. He had previously been suspended by the party in 2021. Last time Keery had 0.7 of a quota as a DUP candidate. I have made the assumption that he retains just over half of this, possible assisted by the TUV not having put up a candidate – the only DEA in the council that they are not contesting.

The only question in this contest appears to be whether Keery can take substantially more votes than that from the DUP, and deprive it of a seat.

I suspect the Greens will do better on the day than the model predicts – with the Green candidate outperforming the average Green result.

Best bet: DUP take back the seat from Keery – which would equal no change on 2019.

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Description automatically generated Only two of the five outgoing councillors are re-contesting the DEA – the DUP and the Green. Whether that will help the Greens hold on to their seat seems problamatic. The DUP look well placed to pick it up.

The Independent, Susan Prentice, says that she has been involved in party politics for many years but now believes that a non-party perspective is better. I have not found any other information about her.

Best bet: DUP gain from Green

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Description automatically generated Four of the outgoing five councillors are standing again, the second DUP is not. Three of them have served at least one full term, while the Alliance was co-opted.

Stephen Cooper, elected as TUV in 2014 and 2019 (and who came closest to gaining a seat for the TUV in the last Assembly election), is now an Independent. He has announced his intention of forming a new unionist party, but is contesting this election as an Independent. His twitter account suggests that he is attracted to Reform UK.

In 2019 Cooper took 0.6 of a quota. It is impossible to predict how he will perform. On the one hand he will have a TUV candidate up against him. On the other how much of his 2019 vote was personal as opposed for the party label? In addition both his prominence as a candidate in the Assembly election, when he came runner up in Strangford, and the publicity surrounding his split with his party may effect his vote – possibly in opposite directions. I have assumed he retains two-thirds of his 2019 vote largely at the expense of the TUV . The TUV seat could be vulnerable.

Alliance will mount a strong bid for a second seat – but it is hard to see where the unionist transfers it is likely to need will come from.

Best bet: No change

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Description automatically generated Only two of the outgoing councillors are seeking re-election: the Green, Rachel Woods, who had a year out as an MLA between 2016 and ’17, and Carl McClean who was elected in 2019 for the UUP and was reselected for the party this year, but quit for the DUP following a row about the selection of a second UUP candidate.

It looks like McClean could well knock out the UUP candidate, producing a DUP gain and possibly just about freeing up enough transfers to help Alliance take the Green seat.

Best bet: 1 DUP gain from UUP and 1 Alliance from Green.

All seven outgoing councillors are standing for re-election, two of whom had been co-opted – the Alliance and the Independent Irvine.

The Independent Jimmy Menagh had built up an astonishing personal vote worth 2 quotas before he passed away last year. Shortly before, he had resigned his seat and nominated Stephen Irvine to be co-opted as an Independent in his place. The big question here is how many of those votes can Irvine hang onto? Menagh’s transfers were mainly shared across the unionist parties, but 14% were shared between Alliance and Green.

Also hoping for a substantial chunk of Menagh’s votes is the Independent Ian Cox. He describes himself as a community volunteer and is a former chair of the East End Residents Association.

I have made a pure guess that as Menagh’s annointed successor Irvine will take the best part of a quota, with Cox gaining enough to make him a potential contender if he can pick up a lot of second preferences.

This will be a contest of personalities – and you can’t enter that variable onto a speadsheet.

Independent Ben King describes herself as a “green progressive unionist”. She fought Strangford as an Independent in 2022, winning 118 votes.

Best bet: Irvine to retain Menagh’s old seat and TUV to take 1 from the DUP.


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