Veteran SDLP man loses his seat to TUV

ONE of Ballymoney Borough Council’s longest serving councillors has lost his seat.

SDLP veteran, Malachy McCamphill’s 28-years of public service was ended on Monday when he was ousted during the final stages of the Bann Valley Count by the Traditional Unionist Voice candidate, Willie Blair, whose election has given the party their first ever councillor in Ballymoney.

Mr. Blair, who poled 440 first preference votes, squeezed home by the narrowest of margins in the eighth count and afterwards declared that he was “not going to lie down in the council.”

“I believe the council has been squandering money and I am going in to fight that tooth and nail,” he said.

Mr. Blair, a retired painter and decorator, was roundly applauded by his TUV colleagues, but for Mr. McCamphill there were bitter recriminations.

He said: “Sinn Fein more or less ran a campaign not to transfer votes to the SDLP; instead they appeared to give them to the Unionists. They have also been adopting much of what we have been advocating for the past 40 years and seem to want to eliminate us.

“A lot of potential SDLP voters didn’t come out and that also cost me. But I suppose I’ll now get my own life back.”

The SDLP’s loss meant that Unionists strengthened their grip on the council with the DUP continuing on from their successful Assembly campaign. John Finlay topped the poll with 905 votes and Sinn Fein’s Philip McGuigan coming second on 876 votes. Veteran campaigner Robert Halliday won through for the eighth time, but the real ‘hero’ of the day as far as the DUP were concerned was 29-year-old Jason Atkinson who polled 592 first preference votes and was subsequently elected with the help of his colleagues. Mr. Atkinson, from Lislagan, said was overwhelmed at his success and said it had come as the result of a great deal of hard work.

Cahal McLaughlin, who was co-opted on to the council, joined his SF colleague and warmly thanked the electorate for seeing him gain his first election victory. The third Sinn Fein candidate, Leanne Peacock, polled 345 first preferences, but failed to get enough transfers to secure a seat.

The Ulster Unionists did not fare well with Stephen Phillips, getting 345 votes and an early elimination.

Councillor John Finlay said the party’s success in Bann nValley was down to a lot of hard work and a ringing endorsement of the party’s policies.

“We intend to work hard to move Ballymoney and Northern Ireland forward”, he added.

There was a turn out of 59.18 per cent with the quota set at 699.