THE political battle lines have been drawn following the wrap up of the local government election results with Sinn Fein sitting comfortably in the top spot of the new Fermanagh and Omagh super council.
While the face of the council appears to be overwhelming nationalist, the UUP put in a surprisingly good performance by topping three of the four DEAs (District Electoral Area) in Fermanagh – Erne East, Erne West and Erne North while Sinn Fein’s Tommy Maguire claimed Enniskillen.
Council chairman Alex Baird triumphed in his election with 1,619 first preference votes, the highest in Fermanagh.
In Enniskillen, the TUV proved to be a thorn in the DUP’s side costing the party a seat in the town ward after Shirley Donaldson polled a poor 503 first preference votes, over 100 less than Donald Crawford (TUV).
While some put the Ulster Unionist’s success down to their strong candidates, others dismissed the ideal of being elected on the first count.
The counting process got underway at Omagh Leisure Complex on Friday, just over 12 hours after the polling station doors were shut to the voting public.
Traditionally, Erne East attracts some of the highest turnouts in Northern Ireland and previously in Europe, and while the ward suffered a dip in voters, it still managed to draw in 69.75 percent of the voting public with 7,981 ballots cast.
Erne East was hot on their heels with a 68.21% turnout, meaning 7,011 voters took to the polls across Maguiresbridge, Brookeboro, Lisnaskea, Donagh, Newtownbutler and Roslea.
Approximately 6,394 people – 60.89% – in Erne North cast their vote at last Thursday’s elections. There was a poor turnout in Enniskillen, which also covers Lisbellaw and Tempo, with a low 54.23% showing, albeit with the poor weather conditions it failed to encourage voters in their droves.
The first councillor to take their seat on the new council was UUP man Alex Baird who sailed past the quota of 1,154 votes required to be elected. The popular current chairman saw his votes soar by almost 400 compared to the 2011 local government elections.
Also elected at the first count was independent councillor Bernice Swift who polled 1,195 first preference votes. Stage four of the count saw Sinn Fein’s Barry Doherty elected who was followed closely by new candidate Anthony Feely, and at the sixth stage SDLP’s Brendan Gallagher squeezed through to claim his seat.
For Erne North, UUP had a relaxed first count as both Rosemary Barton and Raymond Farrell stormed home and over the quota mark which saw the pair take their seats.
The remaining seats were taken by the SDLP, Sinn Fein and the DUP – with Bert Johnston and John O’Kane’s seats being retained by their respective parties and council newcomer John Feely taking the fifth seat.
With six seats up for grabs in Erne East and Sinn Fein standing four candidates, it was inevitable the party would claim the majority in this ward. However, the impressive performance from SDLP’s Richie McPhillips saw the party win in their attempts to claim back an old seat.
Three seats are now filled by Sinn Fein’s Sheamus Greene, Brian McCaffrey and Thomas O’Reilly while Victor Warrington (UUP) – who topped the poll – and Paul Robinson (DUP) are the two unionist representatives.
The Enniskillen ward saw a massive 13 candidates vying for just six seats. However, the vast majority of Fermanagh people hail from a traditional voting background and the middle ground parties failed to make an impression on local voters with Ann Gormley (Alliance) and Laurence Speight (Greens) polling 219 votes between them.
In the end, the line-up to represent Enniskillen in the Fermanagh and Omagh council shaped up to be Tommy Maguire (SF), Debbie Coyle (SF), Keith Elliott (DUP), Robert Irvine (UUP), Howard Thornton (UUP) and Patricia Rogers (SDLP).