In brief

DUP and Sinn Féin stable as Alliance Party rises in Northern Ireland local election

Republican party remains largest in Belfast council

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long. Author: Alliance Party
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, conservative British unionist) and Sinn Féin (left-wing Irish republican) remain the two largest parties in Northern Ireland councils after 2 May local elections in which the Alliance Party and, to a lesser extent, smaller parties such as the Greens and anti-capitalist People Before Profit (PBP) made significant gains.

Of a total of 462 seats in 11 districts, DUP obtained 122 (8 less than in the 2014 elections although this time it won more votes) while Sinn Féin captured 105 (=), at considerable distance from the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP, 75 seats, 13 less than in 2014) and Irish nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP, 59, 7 less). Both parties —the two largest in Northern Ireland at the end of the 1990s— have been losing ground for 20 years now.

UK and Irish media point out that the elections’ biggest winner is liberal-oriented Alliance Party. The party calls for policies meant at closing existing social divisions between unionist and Irish nationalist camps and at accepting the diversity of Northern Irish society. As regards the issue of the referendum on Irish unity —which Sinn Féin demands in a post-Brexit scenario—, the Alliance Party says it is not a good time for such a vote, and continues —as has done for decades now— to promote the notion of Northern Irish autonomy within the UK.

The Alliance has won 53 seats (21 more than in 2014) and has strengthened its role as a key party in the Belfast council —Northern Ireland’s largest— where none of the traditional blocs —as has been the case since 1997— will have an absolute majority.

Meanwhile, right-wing Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) has lost 7 of the 13 seats it previously had, while two left-wing parties have made some progress: the Green Party has won 8 seats (up from 4) while People Before Profit has captured 5 (up from 1 so far).

Anti-abortion Sinn Féin splinter Aontú has won one seat.