SINN FEIN TAKE EXTRA COUNCIL SEAT

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THERE were few shocks as Sinn Fein topped the poll in both the Assembly and local elections however a few gasps were heard as the party gained an extra seat in Cookstown District Council at the expense of the SDLP.

The ousting of Peter Cassidy will be a blow to the SDLP as will the surprise loss of Sinn Fein’s Oliver Molloy who lost his Drum Manor seat to SF newcomer Cathal Mallaghan.

The Assembly results were as predicted with MP Martin McGuinness topping the poll at 8.957 votes or 21 per cent of the vote, on the first count with the DUP’s Ian McCrea also elected with 7,127 (16.7% of the vote).

The only change in the line-up was the election of Sandra Overend who stood in place of her father Billy Armstrong. She polled a respectable 4,409 votes or 10.3 per cent of the vote and was elected on the sixth round.

SDLP Deputy Leader Patsy McGlone was also elected as were Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill and Francie Molloy.

There had been some consternation at the three independents, Harry Hutchinson, Gary McCann and Hugh McCloy, running in the Assembly elections, however these candidates failed to make a huge dent as the big hitters returned to the Assembly with ease.

Cookstown Council will see the balance of power shift even more towards Sinn Fein as it now returns with six councillors to the SDLP’s four and both the DUP and Ulster Unionists with three. Indeed Sinn Fein topped the poll in all three wards.

The SDLP will be examining strategy after the loss of Peter Cassidy to Sinn Fein’s Ciaran McElhone however Patsy MGlone played down the loss saying it had previously been a Sinn Fein seat.

The loss of Oliver Molloy who has sat on Cookstown Council since 2001 could be a big loss to Sinn Fein. It was a surprise as newcomer Cathal Mallaghan appeared to gain a substantial number of first preference votes.

The DUP’s Sam McCartney topped the poll on the unionist side scooping 1,246 votes in the Ballinderry ward. The Ulster Unionists polled well in the other wards with Samuel Glasgow garnering 962 in Drum Manor and Trevor Wilson getting 909.

Poignantly tributes were paid to Cookstown District Council Chief Executive Michael McGuckin who was officiating at his final count before his retirement next month.

All political parties paid tribute to Mr McGuckin who was highly praised for his significant contribution to the Cookstown District Council area.