Background to Council Elections: Mid and East Antrim…

This council has 40 councillors.

The DUP is the only party which had councillors elected in all seven of the District Electoral Areas (DEA’s). The UUP and Alliance were each in 6, the TUV in 3, Sinn Féin in 2 and the SDLP in 1. Independents were also elected in 2.

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I have not included the Independent Bobby Hadden’s voters within any of the designations. For details please see the Knockagh DEA section. It is likely, but not proven, that the majority of his votes came from unionists. Even allowing for this possibility, there had clearly been a significant movement towards ‘others’ from the two other designations.

The two Independents I have included within the unionist vote total were both elected in Ballymena, James Henry and Rodney Quigley.

Almost a quarter of the council seats changed hands. The UUP lost three seats. Two of these were straight swaps, in Knoghagh to the Independent Hadden, and in Larne Lough to Alliance. Its third loss came in a double change in Ballymena, where it and the DUP both lost a seat each to Alliance and the Independent Quigley. A second double change took place in Braid, where the DUP and SF both lost seats to the TUV and Alliance. Yet a third double change took place in Carrick Castle. This was a more complex dance. The former UKIP councillor contested the DEA as an Independent, hoping to replace another Independent who retired from the council. He lost. As a result, both UKIP and Independent seats fell to Alliance and the UUP. Finally, the DUP lost out to the TUV in Coast Road.

The full make-up of the council in 2014 and 2019 can be seen in the chart below.

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The only significant change in vote shares was the 6% point increase for Alliance.

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The Other Unionist vote was made up of BNP, Conservative and Democrat & Veterans.

During the council term John McDermott, first elected in 2019 for the UUP in Carrick Castle, switched to the DUP and will be standing again under his new colours.

Mid & East Antrim is spread across two constituencies. Four of its DEA’s are in East Antrim and 3 in North Antrim. Looking at the Assembly election results for these two constituencies there was little movement between designations in North Antrim since the 2019 council election. In East Antrim, however, unionists had dropped a further 5% points, mostly to the benefit of nationalists. Within the unionists the UUP and TUV both showed increases, 3% and 4% for the UUP, 4% and 5% for the TUV, providing hope for both parties in coming election. Not such a bright prospect for the DUP which was down 4% points in both. Clearly the DUP will be hoping that their improved opinion polling translates fully into votes on the day. The SDLP will be concerned that it was outgrown by SF, which was up by 4% and 3% compared to the SDLP’s 2% and -1%. Alliance will be reasonably confident of holding its 2019 gains, or even adding to them, given its increase of 1% and 2%.

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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Description automatically generated with low confidence Ballymena

The outgoing DUP councillors are not standing again. But the most notable absence from the ballot paper will be the name Henry. There has been a Henry elected in Ballymena, first Samuel then James, at every council election for the last 50 years. The other councillors have all gone forward again, the Alliance being a co-optee.

James Henry was first elected in 2001. His votes were not transfered in 2019. In 2014 Henry’s went 69% to unionist parties, 8% to Alliance and 9% to nationalist parties. A further 9% went to Independent Quigley. I have used this distribution when calculating my estimates.

The other Independent elected last time, who is standing again, is Rodney Quigley. His vote were not transferred either. But when he stood unsuccessfully in 2014 79% of his transfers went to unionist parties, 4% to SDLP and 8% between Alliance and NI21.

The TUV may have missed an opportunity in not standing a second candidate. As it is Henry’s seat will now probably go the UUP, although the DUP cannot be entirely ruled out.

The other possible change is a Sinn Feín gain from Alliance since they could be sitting with similar numbers of votes on the first count. But with only 6 unionist candidates chasing about 5.5 quotas it is unlikely that unionist transfers would not decide the outcome.

Best bet: UUP gain from Independent

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Description automatically generated with low confidence Bannside

This time the DUP will be without Tommy Nicholl, who served 42 years as a councillor. The UUP councillor is also standing down. The other four outgoing councillors are standing again.

The DUP can feel the TUV breathing down their necks and have dropped their candidate number to a defensive 2. Both parties balanced their candidates well last time, so this could be really close. If the UUP has transfers to give they will probably favour the DUP more than the TUV, and based on last time possibly Alliance more than either of them.

What was definitely really close was the contest for the final seat last time. Sinn Feín pipped Alliance by one vote. It is impossible to be sure how the intervention of the SDLP will affect the rematch.

Best bet: TUV gain from DUP

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Description automatically generated with medium confidence Braid

Of the seven outgoing councillors four are standing again, including one who was co-opted. A TUV, a UUP and an Alliance are not standing this time.

This could be a very tight race for the six unionist seats, with both the TUV and DUP potentially under pressure from the UUP. The TUV balanced their 2 candidates very well last time, the DUP was more ragged with 4. It should be easier with 3. The UUP actually had 110 more first preferences than the TUV, but poorer balancing cost them the second seat. Perhaps history will repeat itself.

Alliance could be struggling against Sinn Feín and might be eliminate before unionist transfers become available.

Best bet: Sinn Feín gain from Alliance

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Description automatically generated with medium confidence Carrick Castle

One of the Independents was runner up at the last election and so his votes were never transferred. This makes an estimation of the distribution of the unionist vote between the parties more uncertain. The DUP obviously believe it presents them with a chance of a gain from the UUP, and have therefore run an extra candidate.

In addition, there was no TUV candidate last time, and therefore no history to go on. Their vote could be significantly higher than I have estimated. For this reason, I have shown the TUV with a chance of winning a seat.

The UUP will be relying on Alliance and Green transfers to help them hold the second seat. And it is true that these will probably come on the second count. Their problem however is that their balancing was dreadful last time, and they have no control over how the Alliance and Green transfers will split between the two UUP candidates. If they fail to control their balancing they probably lose the second seat.

Best bet: DUP gain from UUP

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Description automatically generated with low confidence Coast Road

All five outgoing councillors are standing again.

Last time a former SDLP Independent took 0.5 of a quota. His transfers scattered all over the spectrum – only 31% went to Sinn Feín. I have allocated his vote in the estimate based on those transfers.

Unless one of the parties performs above or below expectations the chances of a change are very low.

Best bet: No change.

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Description automatically generated with medium confidence Knockagh

All five outgoing councillors are up for re-election.

Bobby Hadden, the Independent from Knockagh was first elected in 2019. While his votes were not transferred, a comparison between the total votes for all candidates in 2019 with 2014, suggests that his votes came predominantly from unionist voters. However, he does not appear to take any explicit position which would associate him with any of the three designations; so I have classified him separately.

Provided he holds his vote there seems little prospect of change. There is an outside chance that if the UUP were to slightly outperform this projection, while the DUP fell a bit short that the UUP could move ahead of the DUP candidates. Transfers from Alliance could help them, but they would probably be outweighed by the TUV transfers which normally strongly favour the DUP.

Best bet: No change

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Description automatically generated Larne Lough

Four of the five outgoing councillors are standing again, including an Alliance co-optee. The UUP member stood down, and Roy Beggs is seeking a return to electoral politics as one of the UUP candidates.

The UUP balanced very poorly last time – and it will be harder this time with such a prominent candidate at the very top of the ballot paper. Unless they get it spot on they have little chance of profiting from the DUP’s recent weakness. They may be tempted to rely on Beggs going over quota and pulling the second UUP over the line with transfers. The danger with this strategy is that while his party vote would transfer to the second UUP, his personal vote would transfer all over the place. They need to keep Beggs under quota on the first count to trap his personal votes.

The DUP did not balance last time either, but then they did not need to. They will have to this time, or they could be vulnerable if the TUV or UUP performs a bit better than expected.

I’m giving my best bet to the TUV since it is the only unionist party that does not have to balance.

Best bet: TUV gain from DUP


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