With just several hours left before we the electorate take to the polling stations and cast our votes, in what has become the familiar sight of the ballot boxes in recent years, I make a few predictions as to the outcome of the council election for the Ballymoney DEA.
Is it a case that after polling stations close on May 2ndand the counts are concluded the following day, that it will be more of the same for the next 5 years, or will there be change on the horizon.
ALL CHANGE? ALL SAME?
Change is a word which has been thrown around between the parties for several years now. Each promising this and promising that if you’ll only vote for them. But what party has really brought around that change? Either the electorate vote for more of the same meaning that parties really capable of change don’t get the mandate to do so, or those that do get the votes haven’t the strength or ‘guts’ to follow through with it.
But with council election, it’s a slightly different situation, were ‘Party Politics’ plays less a role at local government level than it does at regional or national level. Representatives have more of a voice and those that vote do so less because of party and more because of their personal preference.
That being said there is and most likely always will be a element of ‘loyalty voting’, in that, “sure I’ve always voted that way!” or “that’s who my family vote for!’. And this is why typically we have party’s which poll higher in one area than in another and why we get ‘more of the same’.
But as we head into this years council elections is not just as simple case of the local issues. The country has the added complications of dealing with our non-functioning government in Stormont and the topic which seems to dominate the media on a daily basis and has divided the entire country, ‘BREXIT’. These will most certainly effect how some of the votes are cast or indeed how many are cast, exactly how much of an impact these will have, will become apparent on May 3rd .
Just at this point I want to point out that these are just my predictions and not necessarily how I’ll be voting or asking you to vote.
So where will or more accurately what will we end up with?
2014 saw the start of the first term of the new Causeway Coast & Glens ‘Super Council’ and in the Ballymoney DEA, 7 councillors were elected. The makeup was 3 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 Sinn Fein & 1 TUV.
But as much as I don’t think it will change dramatically, I do predict an increase for a certain party, that party is Sinn Fein. During the last council election in 2014, Leanne Peacock lost out in getting the final seat in council with the DUP’s Alan McLean winning it by JUST 9 votes, the closest of margins.
Going into this election however there is no candidate running for the SDLP in the Ballymoney DEA and these votes have to go somewhere and as a national party the place most would expect them to go would be Sinn Fein
As much as I agree with this for the most part, I can’t be totally ignorant of the fact that some of the SDLP electorate don’t vote Sinn Fein and will go for a middle of the road party like Alliance with a minority of their voters choosing a Unionist candidate for their 1st preference.
However the SDLP votes which does go as 1stpreferances to Sinn Fein, will, I believe result in both candidates winning two of the seven seats in the Ballymoney DEA, increasing their representation on council by at least one.
So with every winner there has to be a loser and given the candidates running, it’s a loss of a Unionist seat, and the candidates in my opinion with have the weakest chance are the UUP’s Darryl Wilson & Tom McKeown and DUP’s Alan McLean, for the final two seats. All three of these candidates were elected without reaching the quota in 2014 and Alan, as previously mentioned, took the final seat by just 9 votes.
Alan’s saving grace may however be this time that the DUP are only running three candidates in the Ballymoney DEA instead of four. This means more ground to cover for each of the three candidates but could also mean more 1stpreference votes per candidate. That coupled with UKIP’s (another pro-Brexit party) and ex-DUP Councillor (now independent) Ian Stevensons votes may, I predict, mean all three will poll ahead of the UUP and win three seats for the DUP.
This leaves two remaining seat, one of which I think will safely be retained by William Blair for the TUV meaning the final seat will come down to the one of two UUP candidates.
Taking the last statistics from the 2014 local elections into consideration, Darryl polled significantly higher, despite being a new candidate, than Tom in 1stpreference votes by over 100 votes. Again in the final tally Darryl again polled hight than Tom with just over 50 more votes. Going into this election Darryl is no longer the ‘new kid on the block’ and has some experience under his belt now.
Tom may have over 20 years experience as a councillor but Darryl has used social media platforms in this modern age to good effect and attracted some of the young voters out there, which I believe will give him the edge over Tom and maybe even over DUP’s Alan McLean for the final few seats. My prediction is Tom will lose his council seat of over 20 years when the results come in for Ballymoney’s DEA on Friday.
With all votes counted, Monday morning will bring a new council and if I am correct, and this could be me talking a lot of old ‘BALLOTS”, the final makeup of councillors for the Ballymoney DEA will be; 3 DUP, 2 Sinn Fein, 1TUV & 1 UUP.
So what about the other candidates in this election? How will they get on? Well in one word poorly!
Firstly we have a young candidate for Alliance, Peter McCully, who in his literature talks about local issues affecting businesses and helping our town centres and mentions community improvements. But as someone who attends loads of community events, and is involved in the Ballymoney chamber, I have yet to see nor do I recognise Mr McCully. You can talk a good talk but you also need to wear the shoes a while to break them in, not just put them on if elected.
Next is UKIP. A pro-Brexit party who started on the mainland before breaking into Northern Ireland politics. Again a candidate who I have never heard of prior to this election and from several people I’ve talked to from various areas of the Ballymoney DEA, it’s a case of where’s ‘HANNA’. The lack of public awareness of Mr Hanna on top of how notoriously bad UKIP polled across Northern Ireland, let alone the Causeway Coast & Glens Borough council in 2014, doesn’t hold much hope for UKIP to so much as get a chance to sit down at the count on Friday before fading into the background of Northern Ireland politics for another few years.
That leaves us with the final candidate to fail to be elected, Ex-DUP councillor Ian Stevenson. Ian had served on Council for 18 years but we can’t ignore the fact that after a serious allegation was made against him, he was suspended by the party. This ment he had to sit on council for the first time as an Independent. Late last year he was charged with the offence and sentenced accordingly, and after a complaint was made against him, the local government commissioner ruled that he was to be suspended for his remaining time in office as a councillor for this term. Many expected Mr Stevenson not to stand but he decided to stand without any party backing. This coupled with his current charge and sentence hanging over him, will most likely in my opinion result in him losing his seat with only a couple of hundred votes at most, in his favour.
So, looking at the bigger picture, Ballymoney will still hold a Unionist majority within the DEA but the most important thing, will the voice of the area be equally represented or be lost, as many thought it would be and was in the new ‘SUPER COUNCIL’ that is Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council.
‘He (or She) that shouts loudest…USALLY HAS THE MOST TO HIDE!’ANON