Background to the 2023 Council Elections: Antrim and Newtownabbey Council…

This Council has 40 councillors.

At the last election both the DUP and UUP held seats in all seven District Electoral Areas (DEA), Alliance in 6, and the SDLP and Sinn Feín in 4. And while the total unionist vote share slipped significantly between the last two elections, unionists retained a majority.

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To see why Stewart is not allocated to a designation group please see the Ballyclare section below.

Six seats changed hands in 2019. The UUP lost in Airport and in Three Mile Water to Alliance, and in Glengormley to SF. The TUV lost both their seats, in Macedon to SF and in Ballyclare to Independent Stewart. While the DUP lost in Dunsilly to Alliance.

The full make-up of the council in 2014 and 2019 can be seen in the chart below.

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Of the main parties only two recorded a significant change in vote share; Alliance up 6 points from 13% to 19% and the TUV down four from 6% to 2%. SF gained its two seats on a 1 point increase in share from 12% to 13%, with the SDLP dropping from 9% to 8%. This meant that nationalists gained 2 seats for no total increase in vote share.

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The SDLP were fortunate to hold all their four seats despite dropping votes. Not so lucky was the UUP whose 2 point drop, from 22% to 20% cost them three seats. Both parties will be under heavy pressure again this time.

Compared with their vote in the last Council elections, the UUP vote share in the Assembly election was down a further 3% points in South Antrim (containing 4 DEA’s), and Belfast North (covering the most part of two DEA’s), but up 3% points in East Antrim (which includes most of one). For the SDLP the picture is worse, -3%, -5% and -7% respectively.

SF are well placed having increased their Assembly vote since the 2019 Council election by 6%, 9% and 4% respectively. As a result, the SDLP faces challenges from either SF or Alliance in all four of its seats. Meanwhile the UUP will be under pressure in at least two from Alliance or the DUP. The DUP itself must be anxious about the challenge from the TUV if that party holds the gains it made in 2022, 8%, 7% and 4%.

Overall, the Assembly elections pointed to a fall in the unionist vote since the 2019 council elections of 3%, 1% and 5% respectively. Nationalists were up 4% in each; and ‘others’ down 1%, 3% and flat in the third.

Outlook by DEA

As well as giving the historical data for the last election in 2019, each table contains two projections.

The first, headed ‘Based on Ass’22’, shows an estimate for the change in the party quota based on the change in its vote between 2019 and 2022 in the relevant constituency or constituencies. I then show where this might put a seat under threat or present a possible gain.

The second projection is changed in the light of the headline figures in the latest Lucid Talk poll. However, since the detailed tables are not published until later, I have been unable to use some of the information I normally rely on.

I have departed from the Assembly vote and the Lucid Talk poll in one respect. I have assumed that Independents who were elected in 2019 will hold onto all or most of their vote in this election, based on the tendency for this to happen in previous council elections.

Please remember that this is not intended to be a prediction. In contrast to my conservative treatment of Independents seeking re-election, I have included party gains and losses which are a long shot, as well as those which are more likely. This is to reflect the degree of uncertainty inherent in making these estimates. Treat them as a guide as to what to look out for, or for making your own judgements.

My Best bet for each DEA is just a bit of fun. It is too simplified to capture all the possibilities and may therefore be wrong as often as it is right.

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All five outgoing councillors are standing again.

The presence of just two unionist candidates will probably deliver enough transfers to keep the SDLP ahead of the second SF.

The Green vote in South Antrim was 1% in 2022.

The SDLP may look doomed, but with only 2 unionist candidates and well over 2 unionist quotas, they will probably be rescued by DUP transfers.

Best Bet: No change

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All six outgoing councillors are standing again.

The Green vote in South Antrim was 1% in 2022.

Alliance lost out on a second seat last time through only fielding one candidate, gifting the UUP a second seat which it looks almost bound to lose. The DUP hopes to pick it up instead, but in running a third candidate it has exposed itself to a potential strong challenge from the TUV.

Even the high profile of the SDLP candidate, three-term councillor and Assembly candidate, probably will not stem the Sinn Feín tide.

Best bet: TUV, Alliance, SF 1 gain each. DUP, UUP, SDLP 1 loss each.

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Independent Michael Stewart (Ballyclare) campaigned on an exclusively localist basis at the last election with no hint of a constitutional position. A third of his transfers went to unionist parties, one fifth to Alliance and over a third to an Independent, the majority of whose transfers in turn went to unionist parties. His vote has not been allocated to any designation.

Three of the five councillors elected in 2019 are standing again, Stewart, 1 DUP and 1 UUP. A sitting UUP councillor is not running again

Since there was no TUV candidate last time there is more uncertainty about the estimate of their vote. There is therefore a small chance of greater inroads into the DUP vote.

The entrance of Sinn Feín may bring a few more nationalists out to vote – many of whom would then transfer to Alliance.

All of this, of course, is dependent on the Independent holding his 2019 vote.

Best Bet: No change

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All five outgoing councillors are standing – but only three of them were elected in 2019. The Alliance and UUP were co-opted.

The SDLP councillor, who was first elected in 2019, looks particularly vulnerable. The UUP could also be vulnerable to either the second DUP or the TUV. There is high uncertainty about the likely size of the TUV vote here since they did not stand last time.

Best Bet: SF gain from SDLP.

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All seven outgoing councillors are running again, one of whom had been co-opted, the DUP’s Paula Bradley.

Independent Michael Maguire was a UUP candidate at the previous election taking 0.3 of a quota. It is unlikely that he will gain as many this time without a party label, so they will probably be transferred early on, as will the Conservative vote. With them both likely to exit the count early, unionist surpluses will become available. SDLP transfers will then likely put Alliance over the line.

Sinn Feín could do very well, but there do not seem to be enough potential transfers available to give them a third seat.

This is a DEA where the TUV might have been expected to do quite well. Even if a seat was unlikely this time (although not totally unthinkable), it should have had a candidate to build for the future. There are a lot of such seats that the party is not contesting.

Best bet: Alliance gain from SDLP

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All six outgoing councillors are standing again. However, none of the three DUP councillors were elected, but all co-opted.

Independent candidate Stafford Ward stood in 2019 when he was runner up. He contested the last Assembly election in North Belfast. His campaigns purely on non-constitutional issues. His Assembly vote transferred 77% unionist (32% DUP, 18% TUV, 11% PUP and only 15% UUP). 14% went to ‘other’ and 8% nationalist.

The potential size of the PUP vote is an unknown quantity, but they are in poor shape as a party and so are not expected to stay very long in the count.

Best bet: no change.

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The six outgoing councillors are all standing again.

The Green vote was 2% in East Antrim so they are not projected to be in the running.

The third DUP could be vulnerable if the TUV takes a bit more out of the DUP vote.

Best bet: No change

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