THE Down District Council electoral areas of Downpatrick, Newcastle, Rowallene, and Ballynahinch produced a lot of political dramas, tension, shocks and some predictable outcomes in the 2011 elections. Below is an over of the electoral areas with some poll statistics. The count took place in Downpatrick Leisure Centre.
The Downpatrick Electoral Area
THERE was no change in the Downpatrick area as all five sitting Councillors were returned to serve for another four years. The SDLP held on to their four seats with McGrath, Curran and Craig all winning through strongly on the first count with Doris going to the eighth count.
Sinn Féin were delighted too to keep their two seats with Johnston and Mac Con Midhe returned. Martin Rice from Killough also ran as the third but Sinn Féin did not poll the 800 votes each they needed to transfer enough to their first time candidate. Rice had 376 votes, a bedrock for future campaign in the area.
Elected for the first time after being co-opted on the Green Party place occupied by Bill Corry, Councillor Cadogan Enright earned his stripes by winning his place on the Council albeit after a scrap and iv on transfers after his initial poll of 549.
Standing for the SDLP for the first time, Downpatrick man Gareth Sharvin was unsuccessful in his bid for a place on the Council but collected a baseline of 320 votes he could build on next time round.
UUP candidate Annette Holden had a short run into the election and covered a lot of ground canvassing in all areas and was disappointed with her vote of 330. There has not been a Unionist councillor in Downpatrick since 2001. DUP first time candidate Andrew Steenson also polled poorly on 168 and too was disappointed. There was only a total Unionist vote cast in Downpatrick area of 498, and allowing for some Unionists who did not vote, it would still be an uphill task for them to secure a seat in Downpatrick. There was a bit of tension too between the DUP and UUP before the election as the former party believed that the latter should not have stood, giving the DUP a free run. With such a split vote, it is possible that voters felt as thought vote would not be effective in the overall electoral equation, hence a number stayed at home.
Across the board the newly elected Councillors said that the key focus on the Council would be the bread and butter issues and that there was a definite trend to move away from the old regimes of sectarian politics.
SDLP Councillor Dermot Curran who is a veteran of nine terms as Councillor was also delighted to have been elected on a strong 999 first preference vote, shoing his solid standing with the Downpatrick electorate. He said, “We must address the jobs creation issue in Down District. We need to maximise what we can from the EU and government and teh private sector to get the area back on its feet.” As the longest serving Councillor on the Council, this sentiment is shared by all, and likely to be a key point of focus in months and years ahead.
“We need also to be protect and develop our local health services in the area and make sure they are properly secured. And lastly, but not least, we need to ensure there is proper support for young entrepreneurs who will help kickstart the economy. We as Councillors have a hugh responsibility in addressing these main issues, and more.”
What They said In The Downpatrick Electoral Area
Colin McGrath (SDLP): “Being elected is a great reward for serving the people for the past six years. The SDLP will continue to serve the people of this district on major issues such as hospital services or ordinary everyday issues. I would therefore like to thank the voters for returning our team of four councillors in Downpatrick to continue with the work which they are committed to.
“The work starts now and will go on for the next four years. We will continue with the key issues of health and roads, and jobs on the economic front as we continue to face very difficult economic circumstances.”
Eamonn Mac Con Midhe (Sinn Féin): “We felt that our vote would go down a bit in this election. But overall locally we are happy with the result as we have returned two Councillors. We hoped that Martin Rice could have managed to squeeze in.
“I don’t think the flags row issue around St Patrick’s Day played a significant factor in the votes that we got. We’ll continue helping people through our advice office in Downpatrick and generally support the Council’s effort to stimulate economic regeneration in the area. ”
Cadogan Enright (Green Party): “I’m delighted with the vote I have received. It works out at 8% of the total votes cast which is an indication the the electorate in Downpatrick have endorsed the myself and the Green Party. I would like to thank all of our team who helped out and a special thanks to previous Councillors and colleagues Bill Corry and Raymond Blaney.
“We have retained the Downpatrick seat. And this is now a beginning for us to grow our party in Down District. We had another four candidates running, two in Down District and two in Newry and Mourne, and although non were elected this time round after extensive canvassing, we will continiue to work hard over the next four years on the issues that matter to the people of this district .”
Andrew Steenson (DUP): “I wasn’t elected but we did run a strong campaign in the Downpatrick area and I’m disappointed that the vote was not higher. We believe theer is a quota there for a Unionist vote in Downpatrick but the Unionist voters need to come out and vote. Now the Unionist people have no voice in the district. “
|First Preference Votes|
|Eamonn Mac Con Midhe||Sinn Féin||832||5|
|Liam Johnston||Sinn Féin||674||6|
|Cadogan Enright||Green Party||549||8|
|Martin Rice||Sinn Féin||376|
The Newcastle Electoral Area
Carmel O’Boyle: “I would like to thank everyone who has voted for me, helping renew my term on Down District Council. And I pledge to serve them as well as I can in the next four years. However, I deeply regret the loss of Peter Fitzpatrick as a Councillor. He has been with the SDLP for 22 years and has served our community faithfully. I am so sorry that this has happened to Peter who has been a dedicated and excellent Councillor.”
Peter Fitzpatrick: “I have not been selected for Councillor this time round. That is the democratic process. I think this time some of the responsibility for this goes to the entry of the Alliance candidate into the election. I lost some votes in that direction from around the Dundrum area. I’ve been a Councillor for 22 years and would like to thank all who helped me over the years and this election for their support. Now is not the time to comment on the loss of my seat. I will need a time for reflection on this.”
Willie Clarke MLA (Sinn Féin): “I delighted to have been returned to the Council once again. and would like t0 thank all of our loyal voters for their support. I am happy too that Stephen Burns has been elected in his first election. He will make an excellent Councillor. It’s just business as usual, and we will be addressing key issues such as Newcastle sewage works and well as fighting for everyone on the bread and butter issues that matter.”
Dessie Patterson UUP: “It is important now for us all to work together for the people of the Down District area. The new Council will develop its own priorities. There is much to be done to support rural tourism and get our economy moving again. We have to do what we can.”
John Hardy (Green Party): “I was not selected but I am proud to have achieved 300 votes which proved that Green Party has a grass roots support across the area. It is a good place to build on for the future. We will work harder for the next election. This has been an excellent foundation. We have to strive for a more sustainable way of living and looking after the environment. We are delighted that Cadogan Enright was returned in Downpatrick, and we managed to get a Green Party Councillor on Castlereagh Council, a DUP stronghold, and Stephen Agnew was elected as North Down MLA. There has been some progress in these elections for our party.
|First Preference Votes|
|Willie Clarke||Sinn Féin||1171||1|
|Stephen Burns||Sinn Féin||796||5|
The Rowallene Electoral Area
TERRY Andrews standing for the first time as an Indelendent candidate shocked the local political establishment at the Rowallene electoral count when he stormed in with 704 first preference votes and picked up strong transfers from other candidates who were eleiminated.
Terry has been a former SDLP activist and decided to run on his own. As a result of his debut into council politics, a casualty of the process was Graham Furey of the UUP. That now leaves just one UUP Councillor in the Rowallene, Robert Burgess, carrying the party’s standard into the new Council chamber.
DUP Councillors William Dick – who topped the Rowallene poll – and Billy Walker, were both returned predictably to Council.
The SDLP’s Maria McCarthy who had been co-opted when Margaret Ritchie stood down from Council was standing for the first time and was elected second after Dick with 809 first preference votes.
Other fallers in the process were Catriona Mackel (Sinn Féin) going out on the second count who polled 286 first preference votes. There was a srong feeling in the Sinn Féin camp that there was a quota for a seat in this electoral area. Also, the Alliance’s Patrick Brown went slightly better with 474 votes but he too was eliminated at the third stage.
What They Said In The Rowalene Area
Terry Andrews (Independent): “I’m entirely overwhelmed. It’s like a dream. I would just like to thank the people who all came out and voted for me. I took on Goliath and won. It is a victory for the people of the area. I vowed to put people first in my work and that’s what they voted for.
“I made no false election promises. I just said I would do my best and serve the community. I’d just like to thank everyone for their tremendous support and I look forward to my workl in Down District Council. I’ll be representing people on the ground and serving the whole community.”
William Dick (DUP): “I’m absolutely delighted to be returned again to Council. I’d like to welcome DUP Councillor Gareth Craig in the Ballynahinch area into Council and believe he will make a valuable contribution to our work over the next four years. I would just like to thak all who supported us on election day, our workers, helpers and the voters.
“Our vote had increased at the poll and our MLA’s also performed strongly in the Assembly election which was a great achievement and all down to the commitment of everyone who worked on our team and helped. Our aim is to make Down District Council area a better place for all our citizens.
“We will continue to work to for issues such as securing a leisure centre in Saintfield and getting proper play facilities into the town which are totally inadequate.”
Maria McCarthy (SDLP): I was co-opted to Council two years ago and this is the first election I have stood in. I am delighted to have got past the quota on my first count. I was initially endorsed by the SDLP but now have the full support of the electorate. I’ve done it off my own bat and as a younger face on Council feel that I have a lot to offer.
“It is important to deliver for the people. Over the past two years I have learned so much and I thank my colleagues for this. I will be working with the whole community and dealing largely with bread and butter issues.”
Robert Burgess (UUP): “The vote for the DUP went well for us but a number of votes did go to the Independent candidate which normally would go to the UUP especially in the second and third preference votes. I suppose our party could have done better. I’d just like to thank all who helped us out particularly Susan Welch and election agent David Hazlett.
“There will now be a pressure to cover the whole Rowallene area, but I am delighted that Walter Lyons has been elected for the Ballynahinch area for the UUP. I’m disappointed that Annette Holden did not get as much support from the voters in the Downpatrick area. It seems that voters tended to stay at home and just not vote.
“We will have to re-build the party from where it is and prepare for the next election. The UUP will be back. We have a lot of ground to make up but should be able to do it.
|Firsty Preference Votes|
|Catriona Mackel||Sinn Féin||286|
The Ballynahinch Electoral Area
With the withdrawal of Jim Wells MLA from taking part in the Down District Council election as he is focusing on his Stormont activities as MLA and avoiding double jobing, the DUP’s candidate Garth Craig who topped the poll to put in the only DUP Councillor for this area. The SDLP crown had slid after they topped in the last election six years ago.
Another new face to Council emerged when Walter Lyons (UUP) who took the place of previous Councillor Peter Bowles who had opted not to stand again.
Sinn Féin’s Mickey Coogan was returned also with a strong vote of 1206 and is now set for his second term at Down District Council.
Signifying the change in voting patterns, it was both the SDLP’s Patsy Toman and Anne McAleenan who were poll toppers in the 2001 election who had to go through the slow selection process before they were elected. It was when DUP candidate Yvonne Moore was finally deselected that her transfers pushed Toman and MacAleenan over the quota to places on the Council.
At the tail end of the pack, Mark McCormick who had a good canvass was disappointed at his votes (176), and Ballynahinch Independent, publican Mark Murnin, also collected 369 first preference votes. The Alliance’s Andy Corkhill had a meagre 203 votes, contrasting with the support the Alliance elected candidate Patrick Clarke received in the Newcastle area.
What They Said In The Ballynahinch Electoral Area
Garth Craig (DUP): I’m honoured to have been elected. I’d like to thank everyone in the election team, our helpers, and te hvoters for this great success. I will be working fro all the people of the Ballynahinch area and there will be some major challenges ahead. South Down has been hit in a bog way with the downturn in the construction industry and we need a two pronged strategy to deal with this. We need to lobby the Assembly hard for what we can get to kick-start our local economy and also we need to support small local businesses and give them all the help they need.
“We have to do what we can as a new Council to attract jobs and investment into the area and get the economy moving. There are other key issues too such as our hospital services, rural communities and Ballynahinch regeneration that have to be addressed. There is much to be done.”
Walter Lyons (UUP): “Our aim this term in Council is to ensue that the regeneration of Ballynahinch moves forward. I served on Council before from 1989-97, but stood down due to other work commitments, but now we need to work to attract as much public funds as possible for Ballynahinch and area.
“Certainly the jobs issue is at the top of the agenda, but also matters such as education are also of prime importance. State schools in Ballynahinch seem to need more support. And we need to build up our local services for the area for all irrespective of colour, creed or class.
“We are sorry to have seen the failure of Graham Furey in the Rowallene area to take a seat. He would have made an excellent councillor. But we have to move on now and address the many key issues such as the roads and traffic problems and to to attract inward investment to the area. For the UUP it is about getting the job done.”
Mickey Coogan (Sinn Féin): “I am extremely happy to have increased my personal vote. This is very positive. I am personally satisfied in going to be able to follow up and complete on the work I started last term. There was a lot of work started in different programmes. For example, I am working with Ballynahinch Olympic to improve play facilities. This proves that we can set up partnerships and don’t have to wait until the Review of Public Administration kicks in. We can pursue important goals in small rural areas.
“Overall, I am disappointed that we missed out on capitalising on more seats in the Newcastle and Downpatrick areas. We were unlucky in Newcastle, and there is much work to be done to address this for the next election.
“It was also pleasing to see Stephen Burns elected in Newcastle after his co-option when Frank McDowell stood down a few months ago. There is much work yet to be done in the Rowallene area. I believe there are two quotas available for a nationalist vote in this area.”
Anne McAleenan (SDLP): “I have been a Councillor for 20 years and I’m quite happy with the SDLP vote in the Ballynahinch area. I’m excited about starting a new term at Council along with my party colleague Patsy Toman.
“For Ballynahinch for the next four years we need to address the state of Ballynahinch town with a Streetscape, and we need to continue to lobby for better roads and services. In rural areas thre are many issues such as childcare provision for parents. People need to get to work and many families need two wages coming in. Also, in Drumaness, there is a need for a proper playground. And in Drumaness, the river is silted up in the pond in the village and this may be a cause of some of the flooding we have experienced. Addressing these issues matters to the quality of people’s lives.”
Patsy Toman (SDLP): “I am delighted again to be returning to Down District Council and contribute to making our area of Down a better place to live in. We are certainly faced with many issues and the SDLP will be at the forefront of fighting for a better deal for everyone across the district, in towns, villages and rural areas.”
|First Preference Votes|
|Mickey Coogan||Sinn Féin||1206||1|
|Mark McCormick||Green Party||176|