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NI council elections 2023: Restore Stormont Executive now, Sinn Féin urges

NI council elections 2023: Restore Stormont Executive now, Sinn Féin urges

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) must return to power-sharing government at Stormont, Sinn Féin's vice-president has said as her party clinched a second historic election win in 12 months.

The party is now the largest in local government as well as the assembly.

It won a total of 144 seats after Thursday's council election - a rise of 39 on its 2019 showing.

Michelle O'Neill said the result showed voters want Northern Ireland's governing executive back.

The power-sharing government collapsed last year as part of the DUP protest against post-Brexit trading rules.

The party has also blocked the functioning of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The overall turnout for the election was 54.7%, up from just under 52.7% in 2019.

The DUP, now the second largest party in local government, won 122 seats, the same as four years ago.

The cross-community Alliance Party had a positive result, increasing its number of councillors by 15 to 67.

Having come third in last May's assembly election, the gains mean the party takes up the same position at council level.

The Alliance Party increased its number of councillors to become the third largest party in local government

However, there were net losses for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

The leaders of both parties, Doug Beattie and Colum Eastwood, dismissed any suggestion they would leave their positions after the election.

In Belfast, the leaders of both the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and the Green Party in Northern Ireland lost their council seats.

'Clear signal'

Ms O'Neill hailed what she called a "momentous" result, after her party made breakthroughs across Northern Ireland, including having its first councillors elected in Ballymena and Coleraine.

It emerged as the largest party in four councils: Mid Ulster; Derry and Strabane; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon; and Newry, Mourne and Down.

It will also have overall control of Fermanagh and Omagh, after winning 21 out of 40 seats.

"These results are a positive endorsement of Sinn Féin's message that workers, families and communities need to be supported, and that the blocking of a new assembly by one party must end," she said.

"This election was an opportunity to send a clear signal.

"To support the positive leadership and a party that wants to get the assembly up and running, deliver first-class council services, support people with the cost-of-living crisis, and invest in the health service.

"The voters have now spoken."

She said the onus was now on the British and Irish governments to focus efforts on the immediate restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and called for an urgent meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

'Voters fed up'

The DUP will be the largest grouping in three councils: Lisburn and Castlereagh; Mid and East Antrim; and Ards and North Down.

The unionist party will also have the largest number of councillors in Antrim and Newtownabbey and Causeway Coast and Glens councils.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (second from right) joined party colleagues as results were declared in Belfast

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said there were lessons to learn from the results, which showed voters were fed up with unionist bickering and infighting.

"The DUP has had a good election but unionism needs to do better, we need to be winning more seats," he said.


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