Northern Ireland elections 2023: Sinn Féin performing strongly on first day of count

A total of 462 councillors are due to be elected in 11 council areas


Sinn Féin is on course to increase its number of council seats as counting continues in the local elections in Northern Ireland.

By 10pm on Friday, with more than 180 seats filled, Sinn Féin was leading the way with 65 seats, followed by the DUP on 53, Alliance on 30, 21 for the UUP, 10 for the SDLP, one for the TUV, one for the Green Party, and five for Independents/Others.

Sinn Féin is aiming to overtake the DUP to become the largest party in local government. Early indications were that the party has polled strongly in many District Electoral Areas (DEAs), with some candidates easily reaching the quota and others winning seats in wards which had previously been regarded as unionist strongholds.

Paul Burke was elected for Sinn Féin on the first count in Lisburn North – the first time the party has taken a seat in this DEA – and Breánainn Lyness became the party’s first councillor in Ballymena.

In the Waterside DEA in Derry and Strabane, it elected two councillors for the first time, with sufficient votes that it could have been in the running for a further seat had it run a third candidate.

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill told UTV it had been a “very successful day so far” and while there were a lot of votes still to be counted “it appears that our very positive campaign, our very positive message around the restoration of the Assembly, strong candidates that are going to work hard for their local communities, really resonates with the electorate”.

She said voters had made clear “they want the Assembly up and running, they want last year’s election results respected.”

At this early stage the DUP appeared to be largely holding its vote. Asked by UTV if he expected the DUP to lose its position as the largest party of local government, party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said candidates were “polling well, we’re winnings seats, and there’s a long way to go yet in this count process”.

The Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie acknowledged his party was “under pressure” but said the problem for unionism was it was “likely to take a hit right across the board in some shape or form … that’s a question for us, what is going wrong?”

The SDLP is expected to largely hold its vote in its stronghold of Derry – though Sinn Féin gains mean it is likely to overtake it in this council area – but overall, the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he expected it would be a “difficult day” for the party.

He said a lot of nationalists were “very angry, very fed up, wanting to send a message to the DUP to get back to work and I think a lot of people felt the best way to do that was to vote for Sinn Féin”.

In Derry and Strabane, there have been reports that Alliance could lose both its current seats on the council, which would deal a blow to its ambition to widen its representation west of the Bann. However the party has been polling strongly in areas such as Ballymena and is expected to increase its number of seats overall.


That concludes our rolling coverage of the local election results tonight, but if you want to read more, here is a news report from Northern Editor Freya McClements wrapping up the first day of counting, while Northern Correspondent Seanín Graham reports from the action today at the Belfast City Hall count here.


Belfast: Seamás de Faoite (SDLP) and Brian Smyth (Green) hold their seats in Lisnasharragh DEA.

Fermanagh and Omagh: Eddie Roofe (Alliance) and Tommy Maguire (SF) take the first and second seats in Enniskillen DEA.


Antrim and Newtownabbey: Sinn Féin has stolen a seat from the SDLP, with Eamonn McLaughlin elected ahead of Noreen Mc Clelland in Glengormley Urban DEA.


The Green Party leader in Northern Ireland, Mal O Hara, has lost his seat on Belfast City Council, being excluded in the latest count in Castle DEA.


Ards and North Down: SDLP Councillor Joe Boyle, the only nationalist representative on the council, has retained his seat.

Mid Ulster: The SDLP’s Kate Mc Quade gains a seat from the UUP in Dungannon DEA. The other councillors elected there are Clement Cuthbertson (DUP), Dominic Molloy (SF), Barry Monteith (Independent) and Denise Mullen (Aontú), James Burton (DUP).


Mid and East Antrim: Sinn Féin has gained a seat as counting concludes in the Ballymena DEA. Those elected are Matthew Armstrong (TUV), John Hyland (Alliance) and Rodney Quigley (Independent), Lawrie Philpott (DUP) and Reuben Glover (DUP). The SDLP lose a seat to Bréanainn Lyness (SF).


Some more results reported by Jade McClafferty

Fermanagh and Omagh: Victor Warrington of the UUP picks up a seat in Erne East.

Belfast City: Dean Mc Cullough (DUP) and Sam Nelson (Alliance) elected in Castle DEA.

Lisburn & Castlereagh: Alliance Party win a seat with Peter Kennedy elected in Lisburn South DEA.

Newry, Mourne and Down: After a slow start in The Mournes DEA the following three candidates have been elected; Glyn Hanna (DUP), Michael Rice (SF), Willie Clarke (SF).


The youngest candidate standing in these elections has won a seat on Antrim and Newtownabbey council in the Ballyclare DEA, Northern Editor Freya McClements reports.

Lewis Boyle, an 18-year-old A-level student at Rainey Endowed school in Magherafelt, Co Derry, is believed to be the youngest councillor ever to hold office in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph ahead of the election, he said he was due to sit his politics A-level exam ten days after the election and that nobody in school had been surprised to hear he was standing as a candidate.

The eldest of four, he said his younger siblings “love telling people their big brother is running for election. They tell everybody. They’re aged between four and 10 so they’re very enthusiastic about it all.”

He said age was no indication of ability, and even though he was only 18 he had been active in his community for years.

“I know that there will be comments that you need somebody older in politics, but I don’t agree with that,” he said.

“I believe it’s time for a new generation to look at old problems and to put fresh issues on the agenda which maybe older politicians aren’t fully aware of.”



Final results from the West Tyrone ward reported by Jade McClafferty:

Sinn Féin shows strength in West Tyrone with four councillors elected, while SDLP loses its only seat on that side of the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

The six elected councillors are: Glenn Campbell (SF), Ann-Marie Donnelly (SF), Colette Mc Nulty (SF), Stephen Mc Cann (SF), Mark Buchana (DUP) and Allan Rainey (UUP).


Another round-up from around the counts:

Mid and East Antrim: The Alliance party’s John Hyland has been elected in the Ballymena DEA, leaving just one seat up for grabs. After the third count in the Larne Lough DEA, Robert Logan of the Alliance party has won a seat.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon: A bad day for the SDLP in the Craigavon DEA as Declan Mc Alinden and Jackie Coade lose their seats. Sinn Féin have gained a seat through Jude Mallon, with the Alliance candidate Robbie Alexander also successful.

Antrim and Newtownabbey: Linda Clarke takes a seat for the DUP in the Dunsilly DEA on the sixth count.

Belfast City: DUP candidate Bradley Ferguson elected in Lisnasharragh DEA.

Fermanagh and Omagh Council: The first to be elected in Enniskillen DEA is the DUP’s Keith Elliot.


Some updates from around the councils via Jade McClafferty:

Ards and North Down: Mark Brooks (UUP), Hannah Irwin (Alliance) and James Cochrane (DUP) elected in the Bangor East and Donaghadee DEA. Steven Irvine (Independent), Naomi Armstrong (DUP) and Alan Mc Dowell (Alliance) have won seats in the Newtownards DEA. Alan McDowell (Alliance) has won a seat in the Newtownards DEA.

Antrim and Newtownabbey: Paul Dunlop (DUP) has reached the quota and is elected in the Antrim DEA.

Mid and East Antrim: After the second count in the Carrick Castle DEA the DUP’s Billy Ashe has secured a seat.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon: Scott Armstrong elected in the Armagh DEA.

Fermanagh and Omagh: Eight of 40 councillors have been elected so far, with Sinn Féin taking six of the seats. Those celebrating are - Sheamus Greene (SF), Thomas O’Reilly (SF), Noleen Hayes (SF), Róisín Devine Gallagher (SF), Glenn Campbell (SF) Pádraigín Kelly (SF), Mark Buachanan (DUP) and Allan Rainey (UUP).

Derry and Strabane: The SDLP’s Declan Norris has won a seat in the Faughan DEA.

Lisburn and Castlereagh: Brian Higginson takes a seat for the DUP in Castlereagh South.

Causeway Coast and Glens: Sinn Féin’s Seán Bateson is the first to be elected in the Bann DEA.


We have an update from Northern Correspondent Seanín Graham, who is covering the count at Belfast City Hall:

Twelve of Belfast City Council’s 60 seats have been declared – with seven going to Sinn Féin.

In one electoral area – Black Mountain in the west of the city – the republican party secured an historic 72 per cent of the vote, replicating its success across the North in the early stages of today’s results.

Former Belfast Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey has taken a seat for the DUP, as have Fred Cobain and Nicola Verner.

Current tallies show that the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) will lose a seat on Belfast City Council for the first time since 1981, with party veteran Billy Hutchinson lagging behind the TUV in picking up transfers.

Hutchinson was a central figure in the loyalist negotiation team in the led-up to the Belfast Agreement.


Another round up from Jade McClafferty:

Counting in the Killutagh DEA in Lisburn and Castlereagh is now complete, with a unionist majority having been elected. The five seats have gone to Thomas Beckett (DUP), James Tinsley (DUP), Ross Mc Lernon (UUP), Claire Kemp (Alliance) and Gary Mc Cleave (SF). Credit to the count staff, this is the second Lisburn and Castlereagh Council DEA to finish.

Counting has concluded for the Magherafelt DEA in Mid Ulster with the seats filled by Christine Mc Flynn (SDLP), Darren Totten (SF), Seán Clarke (SF), Paul McClean (DUP) and Wesley Brown (DUP). James Burton (DUP) has been elected in the council’s Dungannon DEA.

Elsewhere, Burton’s party colleague Robert Adair has won a seat in the Ards Peninsula DEA of Ards and North Down Council.

Ashleen Schenning (SDLP) has been elected following the third count in the Limavady DEA of Causeway Coast and Glens Council.

Two Sinn Féin councillors were elected on the first count in the Mid Tyrone DEA of Fermanagh and Omagh Council, Pádraigín Kelly and Róisín Devine Gallagher.


In Mid and East Antrim, five councillors have been elected in the Ballymena DEA - including a first success for the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) who have been marking the DUP’s card hard amid the ongoing Brexit fallout. Rodney Quigley (Independent), Matthew Armstrong (TUV), Colin Crawford (UUP), Bréanainn Lyness (SF) and Reuben Glover (DUP) will all be celebrating tonight.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill has been to the Mid Ulster count centre, where she looked more than content with her party’s strong start to the count.

She said voters were sending a “clear signal” that it is time to get the Assembly up and running.

“People are determined to see the positive transformation of our politics,” she said. “Sinn Fein went into this campaign with a commitment to work for all, and our councillors across the North will take forward that commitment.

“I want to again thank every one who placed your trust in Sinn Fein to deliver a better future for all.”


The count staff are sucking diesel in Lisburn and Castlereagh, where the Lisburn North DEA is complete. It is a mixed bag, of sorts, with candidates from five parties and one independent securing seats. The area’s councillors are Paul Burke (SF), Jonathon Craig (DUP), Nicola Parker (Alliance), Pat Catney (SDLP), Nicholas Trimble (UUP), and Gary Hynds (Independent).

Elsewhere, Lauren Gray (Alliance) and Cheryl Brownless (DUP) are the first candidates to exceed the quota and win seats in the Carrick Castle DEA of Mid and East Antrim Council.

In Derry and Strabane, Derek Hussey of the UUP has been elected in the Derg DEA.

Counters for the Fermanagh and Omagh Council have been busy, too, with three Sinn Féin councillors elected in the Erne East DEA - Sheamus Greene, Thomas O’Reilly and Noeleen Hayes. They have been joined by Paul Robinson of the DUP. UUP candidate Allan Rainey has been elected in the West Tyrone DEA.

In Mid Ulster, Independent candidate Dan Kerr will now represent the Torrent DEA.


The first count in the Banbridge electoral area of the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area has seen four councillors elected - Glenn Barr (UUP), Chris Mc Cartan (Sinn Féin), Joy Ferguson (Alliance) and Paul Greenfield (DUP). Four councillors have been elected in the Lurgan DEA - Sinn Féin duo Liam Mackle and Keith Haughian will be joined by the DUP’s Peter Haire and the Alliance’s Peter Lavery.

In the council’s Craigavon DEA, three seats have been secured by Jude Mallon and Catherine Nelson of Sinn Féin and the DUPs Margaret Tinsley. Sinn Féin’s Fergal Donnelly has been elected in the Armagh DEA.

In Antrim and Newtownabbey, Paula Brady of the DUP has taken a seat in the Glengormley Urban DEA after the second count. DUP candidates Jeannie Archibald and Helen Magill have been elected in the Ballyclare DEA. Sinn Féin’s Lucille O’Hagan and Neil Kelly (Alliance Party) have won council seats in the Antrim DEA.

In Lisburn and Castlereagh, Nicholas Trimble of the UUP has been elected in the Lisburn North DEA alongside Pat Catney of the SDLP, who last year lost his Lagan Valley Assembly seat. Gary Hynds, standing in the same district, became the first Independent candidate to be elected so far.

Meanwhile, three Sinn Féin candidates have come out on top in the first count in the Belfast electoral area of Black Mountain. Ciaran Beattie, Arder Carson and Michael Donnelly taken the first seats.


It’s all go in Derry.

The first count in the Derg area of Derry and Strabane has seen two candidates pass the quota of 1,425 - the DUP’s Keith Kerrigan topped the poll with 1,669 votes ahead of Ruairí McHugh of Sinn Fein with 1,442. In Waterside, Sinn Féin’s Caitlin Deeney and Christopher Jackson have been elected, as well as the UUP’s Darren Guy - the first UUP councillor elected today. In Sperrin DEA, Sinn Féin’s Paul Boggs and Feargal Leonard have secured themselves seats.

The UUP’s colleague Ryan Mc Cready reached the quota after the second count in the Faughan DEA, becoming the first councillor elected in this DEA so far.

The SDLP has claim a seat in the Magherafelt DEA in Mid Ulster after the third count, with Christine McFlynn elected.

Conor Maskey and Brónach Anglin have both been elected for Sinn Féin in the Castle DEA of Belfast.

Sinn Féin has also taken the first two seats in Benbradagh DEA of Causeway Coast and Glens - with Seán Mc Glinchey and Dermot Nicholl celebrating this afternoon.

Annie O’Lone has joined her Sinn Féin colleague Henry Cushinan in being elected in the Dunsilly DEA of Antrim and Newtownabbey.


Sinn Féin took the first seat in Belfast, with Geraldine McAteer elected in the Balmoral DEA on the first count after topping the poll. The DUP claimed two seats in the Court DEA, with Frank Mc Coubrey and Nicola Verner elected along with Sinn Féin’s Tina Black. DUP candidate Davy Douglas won the first seat of five in the Belfast DEA of Lisnasharragh.

Alliance has secured two seats in Lisburn & Castlereagh, with Michelle Guy elected in Castlereagh South and Nicole Parker in Lisburn North. Alan Givan, the father of Northern Ireland’s former first minister Paul Givan, has been elected in Lisburn South.


Results are starting to roll in now, with Sinn Féin storming to the front in Mid Ulster, claiming seven of the first eight seats.

Eimear Carney and Niall McAleer surpassed quota of 1,520 to take up seats in the Torrent DEA. Cathal Mallaghan and John McNamee followed suit in Cookstown DEA. In Dungannon, the DUP’s Clement Cuthbertson and Sinn Féin’s Dominic Molloy have been elected, with the former surpassing the quota by 723 votes. Magherafelt saw the only two Sinn Féin candidates secure seats after the first count, Darren Totten and Seán Clarke.

Elsewhere, Sinn Féin candidate Henry Cushinan has taken a seat for in the Dunsilly DEA in Antrim and Newtonabbey Borough Council, with 1,390 votes. Allison Bennington (DUP) topped the poll in Glengormley Urban DEA with Sinn Féin’s Eamonn Mc Laughlin also elected.

Caitlin Deeney of Sinn Féin has been elected in the Waterside DEA of Derry and Strabane.


The Independent candidate and former mayor of Derry, Graham Warke, has been eliminated after the first count in the Faughan District Electoral Area (DEA) in Derry and Strabane.

A popular mayor, who was the district’s first citizen from 2021-22, he formerly represented the DUP but left the party on his final day in office last June, saying he wanted to move forward on a “moderate, progressive and positive political pathway” and he felt this could best be achieved as an Independent.

From a well-known family in the city, he had been expected to poll well, but will be disappointed with only 279 preference votes – the lowest tally of the 10 candidates standing in that DEA.

He and the People Before Profit (PBP) candidate, Damien Gallagher, have been eliminated in Faughan.

Ryan McCready of the UUP appears set to be elected in Faughan, with 1,282 votes after the first count with a quota of 1,350.

Sinn Féin candidates Alex Duffy and Sean Fleming are also well-poised to take seats, with both on just under 1,200 votes.


DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson visited the Lisburn and Castlereagh Council count and appears upbeat at an early stage of the day about his party’s prospects there.

He indicated that the DUP is polling well in the area, and would hold its seats in four district electoral areas (DEA) that are being counted so far. He also said they hoped to gain a seat in two DEAs, but it was too early to tell if that would happen.

“The Alliance Party is polling well in some of areas too, Sinn Fein have done well where you might expect them, so I think the pattern so far in Lisburn and Castlereagh is DUP holding its ground, Alliance perhaps making some gains, perhaps at the expense of the Ulster Unionist Party, and Sinn Fein perhaps making one or two gains at the expense of the SDLP,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“Our vote has gone up in some areas in Lisburn and Castlereagh but it’s too early to tell if we will make a gain. I think we were targeting a gain in a couple of areas but we haven’t seen the results yet for those two areas.”


More on some of the candidates running in these elections, which are a bit of a family affair, in some parts…

Mother and son combination Joyce and Stephen Donnelly are hoping to get elected in Fermanagh and Omagh Council. Stephen was the first Alliance councillor elected to the council in decades and could soon be joined by his mother.

Husband and wife team David and Jill Mahon are also hoping to form a partnership on Fermanagh and Omagh council for the DUP.

In Antrim and Newtownabbey, Alliance candidate Andrew McAuley is hoping to fill the shoes of his wife Vicki who topped the poll last time out but has since stood down. No pressure, Andrew….


Some turnout figures are starting to come through for individual District Electoral Areas (DEAs) – the individual wards that make up each council area, writes Freya McClements.

We don’t have an official turnout figure for all of Northern Ireland yet, but election numbers expert and deputy editor of the Slugger O’Toole political website, David McCann, says early indications point to an overall turnout of more than 50 per cent.

Last time around in 2019, the overall turnout was just under 53 per cent, so we could be heading for a similar figure.

It also looks as if predictions of higher turnout in nationalist areas – which was also the case in 2019 – have held up.

DEAs in Fermanagh and Omagh, Derry and Strabane, Mid Ulster and Newry, Mourne and Down have all reported turnout of more than 60 per cent; the highest so far appears to be Erne West, in the Fermanagh and Omagh council area, which had a turnout of 68 per cent.

This is good news for Sinn Féin, which is aiming to overtake the DUP as the largest party in local government, and which is traditionally good at getting its vote out. Last time, the beneficiary of that lower unionist turnout was Alliance.


As with any election, there are some interesting characters in the field in Northern Ireland this year, writes Jade McClafferty.

Bangor man Alan Graham became arguably the best known farmer in Northern Ireland some years back when he told pop star Rhianna to “cover up” after he realised a film crew he had permitted on to his land was filming the music video for We Found Love in his one of his fields in 2011. Graham is hoping to regain his seat for the DUP in Ards and North Down after losing it in 2019.


As the votes are being counted, more than 200 BBC journalists in Northern Ireland are on a 24-hour strike to protest cuts to jobs and programming. BBC Radio Ulster replaced its usual Friday fare – Good Morning Ulster, Nolan Show, TalkBack – with content from Radio 5 Live.

“The decision to strike on such a significant news day has not been taken lightly and reflects frustration on the part of NUJ members,” said Seamus Dooley, the NUJ assistant general secretary.

The staff shortage saw Friday morning news bulletins read by the BBC’s director in Northern Ireland, Adam Smyth.

Read our news report on the strike here:



Ballot boxes were moved to 11 sites for verification overnight before counting began at 8am.

The elections use the single-transferable-vote system where voters rank candidates in order of preference.

Some 462 council seats are being contested at this year’s election.

Northern Ireland’s 11 councils are responsible for setting rates, planning, waste collection as well as leisure services and parks.

It is the first electoral test for the parties since last year’s Assembly elections and takes place against the backdrop of the Stormont stalemate, with the powersharing institutions not operating as part of a DUP protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill said the election was an opportunity for voters to reaffirm last year’s assembly election, while DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson asked unionist voters to unite behind the party to “get back to winning ways”.


Newton Emerson writes there is a “bizarre lack of energy” around the council elections in Northern Ireland, “despite high-stakes contests within and between communities”. Read his column from Thursday here.


Here are five things to watch in the North’s council elections. First on the list – How will the DUP perform?