Northern Ireland elections: Dissident Republican wins in Derry ward where Lyra McKee was killed

Gary Donnelly elected on first count in the Moor district where journalist was shot dead

Adam Forrest
Saturday 04 May 2019 18:31
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Friends of Lyra McKee protest at Saoradh HQ

One of the public faces of dissident republicanism in Northern Ireland has topped the election poll in the Derry ward where journalist Lyra McKee was killed by the so-called New IRA during rioting last month.

Independent republican councillor Gary Donnelly polled 1,374 first-preference votes in the Moor district electoral area.

First elected to Derry City and Strabane District Council as an independent in 2014, his re-election came as Ms McKee was remembered during a May Day parade in Belfast.

Her shooting sparked outrage across the world as well as a swell of criticism for dissident republican violence in Northern Ireland.

Mr Donnelly said the journalist had died because of a “reckless” act. Writing on his Facebook page, he said: “This is wrong and my thoughts like the thoughts of this entire community are with her loved ones.

“I would plead with those behind this attack to desist from any further attacks and seriously consider the consequences of their action.”

Members from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) paid a special tribute to Ms McKee at Belfast City Hall as the parade made its way through the city.

It was led by a new banner declaring “Workers’ Rights are Human Rights”, in tribute to the journalist and all workers facing violence and intimidation.

Members of the NUJ pause at Belfast City Hall to remember Lyra McKee on Saturday

Mr Donnelly’s Derry ward was just one of 462 seats up for grabs across 11 council areas in Northern Ireland, as counting continued in the local government elections on Saturday.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won 24.1 per cent of first preference votes compared to Sinn Fein on 23.2 per cent, the BBC reported. The centrist party Alliance has seen its share of the vote rise from 6.7 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, said she would examine any “bad behaviour” by members following comments made by former health minister Jim Wells about the party’s first openly gay councillor, Alison Bennington.

Mr Wells said his former leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, would be “aghast” at the decision to run a gay DUP candidate. Ms Bennington won an Antrim and Newtonabbey Council seat on Friday.

Ms Foster said Mr Wells should not have made those comments to the media. “We will look at all of those issues after the election … We will be looking at where we did very well and we will be looking at bad behaviour as well.”

Local elections: First ever openly gay DUP candidate Alison Bennington wins in Northern Ireland

Elsewhere, former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff won a seat on Fermanagh and Omagh Council. Mr McElduff, who was forced to resign his Westminster seat after posting a video of himself balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on the anniversary of the 1976 massacre near the village of Kingsmill in South Armagh, was elected on the fourth count.

The son of solicitor Pat Finucane, who was killed by loyalist paramilitaries, has said his father was in his thoughts as his election to Belfast City Council was confirmed. John Finucane was elected for Sinn Fein on the first count in the Castle district electoral area in north Belfast with 1,650 votes.

Earlier today it emerged a farmer who objected to how Rihanna was dressed as she filmed a music video in his field has lost his council seat.

The DUP’s Alan Graham made headlines after intervening as the singer wore a skimpy outfit while filming her 2011 hit “We Found Love”. He said at the time he did not “believe young ladies should have to take their clothes off to entertain”.

Additional reporting by PA

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