Council election: Unionists in Mid Ulster urged to turn out and vote, despite SF dominance

The council-run Seamus Heaney HomePlace is one of Mid Ulster's top visitor attractions
The council-run Seamus Heaney HomePlace is one of Mid Ulster's top visitor attractions

Unionists in Mid Ulster have been urged to turn out and vote on May 2, despite the expectation that Sinn Fein will tighten its grip on the council.

The republican party took 18 of the 40 available seats at the last election in 2014. And with 20 candidates this time around, it is fielding almost twice as many hopefuls as any of the other parties.

The Mid Ulster Council area

The Mid Ulster Council area

A total of 58 candidates – 37 of them seeking re-election – are battling for 40 seats across seven District Electoral Areas.

The DUP, which took eight seats last time around, is putting forward 11 candidates, including Kyle Black — the son of prison officer David Black, who was murdered by dissident republicans in November 2012 – and Ian McCrea – former Assembly member and son of ex-DUP MP William McCrea.

The UUP, which took seven seats five years ago, has 10 candidates this time, and the SDLP is fielding seven hopefuls, including all five of its present incumbents.

The Alliance Party, which currently has no representation on the local authority, is fielding just two candidates – the same number as recently formed republican pro-life party Aontú, led by ex-Sinn Fein TD Peadar Tóibín.

The party is putting forward a high profile candidate in the Carntogher DEA – Pádraigín Uí Raifeartaigh, the former chairperson of Mid-Ulster Women’s Aid, who resigned her post with the charity last week after confirming her intention to stand in the election.

There are four independents seeking election, while the TUV and The Workers Party are each fielding just a single candidate.

One unionist source in the area, who didn’t want to be named, said the “lack of equality in terms of funding for cultural projects” and the nationalist-controlled local authority’s new bonfire management policy are issues of significant concern for many unionists in Mid Ulster.

Predicting a possible gain of “at least one seat” for Sinn Fein at the expense of the SDLP, he added: “We need to try to return as many unionist candidates as possible. It is important for unionists to come out and vote for all the unionist parties.”

Mid Ulster DUP MLA Keith Buchanan, who has been out canvassing for his party’s candidates, said it is not council issues most people have been wanting to talk about on the doorsteps, but rather Brexit and the ongoing political impasse at Stormont.

Stating that his party would be “content” to maintain its current quota of seats, he said: “I don’t see that basic split of 25 nationalists and 15 unionists changing much. I could see possibly Sinn Fein making gains at the expense of the SDLP, but that’s not going to impact our vote.”

He added: “I would urge unionist voters to get out and vote. Regardless of the 25-15 split, unionists are still a big part of Mid Ulster.

“Yes you are in a minority, but the minority is just as important as the majority.

“You are still part of Mid Ulster Council and still a ratepayer, so unionist voters need to come out so that we can hold what we have and try to make gains.”

YOUR CANDIDATES

CARNTOGHER:

James Armour (Independent)

Kyle Black (DUP)

Cora Groogan (Sinn Fein)

Paul Henry (Sinn Fein)

Martin Kearney (SDLP)

Brian McGuigan (Sinn Fein)

Sean McPeake (Sinn Fein)

Christopher Reid (UUP)

Pádraigín Uí Raifeartaigh (Aontú)

Five to be elected

CLOGHER VALLEY:

Frances Burton (DUP)

Phelim Gildernew (Sinn Fein)

Meta Graham (UUP)

Sharon McAleer (SDLP)

Sean McGuigan (Sinn Fein)

Robert Louis Mulligan (UUP)

Wills Robinson (DUP)

Six to be elected

COOKSTOWN:

Gavin Bell (Sinn Fein)

Wilbert Buchanan (DUP)

Alan Day (TUV)

Mark Glasgow (UUP)

Kerri Hughes (SDLP)

Cathal Mallaghan (Sinn Fein)

John Fitzgerald McNamee (Sinn Fein)

Grace Neville (DUP)

Trevor James Wilson (UUP)

Seven to be elected

DUNGANNON:

Kim Ashton (DUP)

Niall Bowen (Indpendent)

Mel Boyle (Alliance)

Walter Cuddy (UUP)

Clement Cuthbertson (DUP)

Kim McNeill (UUP)

Dominic Joseph Molloy (Sinn Fein)

Barry Monteith (Independent)

Denise Mullen (SDLP)

Deirdre Varsani (Sinn Fein)

Six to be elected

MAGHERAFELT:

Wesley Brown (DUP)

Sean Clarke (Sinn Fein)

Kevin Padraig Donnelly (Aontú)

Christine McFlynn (SDLP)

Paul McLean (DUP)

George Shiels (UUP)

Darren Totten (Sinn Fein)

Five to be elected

MOYOLA:

Aidan Bradley (Alliance)

Catherine Elattar (Sinn Fein)

Anne Forde (DUP)

Denise Johnston (SDLP)

Derek McKinney (UUP)

Donal McPeake (Sinn Fein)

Ian Patrick Milne (Sinn Fein)

Hugh Francis Scullion (The Workers Party)

Five to be elected

TORRENT:

Robert Colvin (UUP)

Niamh Doris (Sinn Fein)

Mickey Gillespie (Sinn Fein)

Dan Kerr (Independent)

Ian McCrea (DUP)

Ronan McGinley (Sinn Fein)

Joe O’Neill (Sinn Fein)

Malachy Joseph Quinn (SDLP)

Six to be elected