DESPITE the Sinn Fein contingent emerging as the dominant party across the new Fermanagh and Omagh council, the party failed to uphold their former representation in the Erne East area by losing one of their seats to the SDLP.
The success story of the day was newcomer Richie McPhillips (SDLP) who managed to beat Sinn Fein’s new running candidate Kate Mulligan to the election line after he polled 1,015 first preference votes.
However, Sinn Fein still filled half of the District Electoral Area (DEA) seats with long-standing councillors Brian McCaffrey and Thomas O’Reilly as well as Sheamus Greene all successfully returned.
The UUP put in a strong performance with Victor Warrington who topped the polls with 1,272 first preference votes and was elected on the first count.
A humbled Mr Warrington, who stood in the 2011 elections but marginally missed out on a council spot, said this year’s drop in voters was from the unionist side.
He said: “Polling is a difficult thing to judge, with the unionist vote there were only ever going to be two unionist seats in my area, Paul Robinson and myself expected to get the two of them but we have third unionist candidate in Fred Parkinson and I think to a certain degree there was a bit of complacency which kicked in.
“Some of the issues which UKIP have people were voting for it but I suppose Fermanagh, whether it’s good or bad, has still quite traditional voters.
“The unionist vote was down in Erne East, though not a lot, it was down 5 percent to under 70% turnout”
In a dramatic turn of events, stage two of the count saw Richie McPhillips deemed elected after he passed the quota of 1,122.
An emotional Mr McPhillips said: “It’s a little bit of recovery for the SDLP. I knew I had a battle on my hands because we hadn’t an organisation on the ground.
“I met with Alasdair McDonnell in Feburary last year, and we discussed how we had to get out there on the ground and he said, ‘I’m letting you loose, you get out there and do it’ and this is a combination of it today.”
However, the newly-elected candidate was not shy on his view of this new ‘super-council’, describing it as a forced marriage’.
He added “Let’s face it, we’re going in to a tough set-up and to my mind it’s a forced marriage between Omagh and Enniskillen.
“But we will work hard for the people of Fermanagh.
“I want to thank all those who voted for me, especially the 1,015 who made me their number one.”
Also elected on the first count was DUP man Paul Robinson who blamed his drop in votes on the UKIP candidate Fred Parkinson, albeit with a loss of 100 voters compared to the last local elections.
Paul Robinson: “It takes a lot of pressure off to get elected on the first count and it’s great for the party.
“The UUP votes are down as they had over 1,600 the last time so they are down to 1,272 this year. I had UKIP against me so they took some of my votes so that’s probably why it’s down but I knew it would be when I saw UKIP was running.”