SF take control in Magherafelt

NEWLY elected Magherafelt councillors will come face to face for the first time later this month to select a new chair and vice-chair.

Deciding which party representatives occupy these key positions will be the new council's first hurdle.

Sinn Fin - with eight seats and the casting vote - have overall control in the 16-seater chamber, while the DUP are second largest holding four seats.

The SDLP representation has been reduced from three to two councillors - the same number as the Ulster Unionist Party.

The DUP's Rev William McCrea yesterday told the MAIL he was looking forward to the council's annual meeting.

He said the nationalist controlled council would not "walk over" unionist representatives.

The new South Antrim MP said the meeting could be "a test for equality and Human Rights legislation".

"These will be brought into play if it is necessary," he cautioned.

A Sinn Fin spokesperson said: "Sinn Fein now are the majority holder of seats within Magherafelt District Council.

"We will use our mandate responsibly to improve the lives of everyone within the council area."

The major shock at Monday's election count was the defeat of Independent Unionist Bertie Montgomery.

Mr Montgomery, who had been vice-chair, was widely known in local government circles.

One political pundit said: "Bertie Montgomery is an incalculable loss to the council.

"Not only was he a very experienced and hardworking councillor, but he was willing to work and mix with all sides - a sadly rare quality in this area."

Another notable casualty was former Ulster Unionist councillor John Junkin

Mr Junkin served the Moyola ward on the council for 24 years and lost out in the battle for votes with UUP newcomer Jackie Crawford.

Two of Sinn Fein's sitting councillors Seamus O'Brien and Hugh Mullan also failed to be returned.

The new council consists of: William McCrea (DUP), Paul McLean (DUP), Peter Bateson (SF), Sean McPeake (SF) Jim Campbell (SDLP), George Shiels (UUP), Patsy Groogan (SF), Kathleen McEldowney (SF), Sean Kerr (SF), Anne Forde (DUP), Kate Lagan (SDLP), Oliver Hughes (SF), Seamus O'Neill (SF) Ian Milne (SF), Thomas Catherwood (DUP), Jackie Crawford (UUP).