Count to begin in Northern Ireland’s local government election

Count to begin in Northern Ireland’s local government election

Councils are expected to begin counting this morning following a day of voting in the local government elections in Northern Ireland.

A total of 819 local council candidates are standing across 11 council areas.

Initial indications from some of the 1,463 polling stations across Northern Ireland suggest a solid turnout, with the good weather appearing to have buoyed numbers casting their ballots. The official turnout figure in the last council election in 2014 was 51%.

Voter goes to polls at Bloomfield Methodist Church polling station on Grand Parade east Belfast on Thursday (David Young/PA)
Voter goes to polls at Bloomfield Methodist Church polling station on Grand Parade east Belfast on Thursday (David Young/PA)

After an overnight verification of unused ballot papers returned from the polling stations, with councils ready to begin counting at 8am.

Counting will continue into tomorrow before the final picture is known.

Northern Ireland’s political leaders cast their votes in their local areas earlier on Thursday.

DUP leader Arlene Foster voted in the Co Fermanagh village of Brookeborough while Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill voted in Clonoe, Co Tyrone.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster votes in the local election in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh (Michael McHugh/PA)
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster votes in the local election in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh (Michael McHugh/PA)

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann voted in Ballymena, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood voted in Derry and Alliance leader Naomi Long cast her vote in east Belfast.

Among noteworthy races for seats will be Sinn Fein’s former West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff’s efforts to return from the political wilderness.

He was forced to step aside after offending the families of those shot dead by republicans at the height of the Troubles in Kingsmill, Co Armagh.

Mr McElduff is running for a place on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in the far west.

Fermanagh and Omagh District District Council building in Omagh (Liam McBurney/PA)
Fermanagh and Omagh District District Council building in Omagh (Liam McBurney/PA)

In Newtownabbey, near Belfast, the DUP’s first openly-gay candidate is seeking election.

Alison Bennington is standing for a party which has repeatedly vetoed same-sex marriage and holds strong Christian values.

It is the first poll since journalist Lyra McKee, 29, was shot dead by dissident republicans during disturbances in Derry in April.

Her death prompted revulsion against the group blamed for the killing and a call by a Catholic priest for politicians to redouble efforts to restore devolved powersharing.

Northern Ireland has been without devolved government for two years (PA)
Northern Ireland has been without devolved government for two years (PA)

The Stormont Assembly and ministerial Executive have been suspended since early 2017.

Former Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in a row over the DUP’s handling of a botched green energy scheme.

Fresh negotiations are due to begin next week following Miss McKee’s death.

The election is being conducted by single transferable vote, a proportional representation system.

- Press Association

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