Kings hall election counts 2011 2255mj11

In Belfast, a first ever nationalist majority

The trend in the North's Assembly election was mirrored in the council poll which was still being counted on Tuesday evening.

With several seats still to be declared the Ulster Unionists and SDLP slip continued at the hands of the DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance.

In the final tally the DUP had 175 council seats, Sinn Féin 138, UUP 99, SDLP 87, Alliance 44 and others 39.

In Belfast, the UUP are now down to just three councilors out of a 51 seats in the council chamber. Sinn Féin continued to make gains in the city coming home on top with 16 councilors.

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One of the party's newly elected councilors is Irish Echo president Máirtín ó Muilleoir, who was elected on the first count and with an excess of votes over the quota in what was a proportional representation contest. ó Muilleoir will represent Belfast's Balmoral Ward in the council chamber.

ó Muilleoir was a council member back in the 1980s, a less tranquil time. He was ejected from the chamber for attempting to speak in Irish, a scene he later described in his memoir, "Belfast's Dome of Delight."

In addition to the Sinn Féin delegation, the new council in Belfast will comprise 15 DUP members. The SDLP stayed steady with eight, while Alliance increased to six, with three other unionists elected.

This means for the first time in the city's history there are more nationalist councilors (24) to unionist councilors (21). However, nationalists failed by two to gain control of the council, with Alliance the kingmakers with their six councilors.

In the greater Belfast area the story of the count was Alliance gains at the expense of the embattled Ulster Unionists.

The rest of the election results saw nationalists remain in control of councils in the west and south of Northern Ireland, while unionists are in the majority in the north-east, outside Belfast, in counties Antrim and Down in particular.

In Tyrone and Fermanagh, Sinn Féin picked up seats at the expense of the SDLP with the latter holding onto just one councilor in Strabane District Council compared to Sinn Féin's eight. Only in Derry City and Down did the SDLP hold out against the Sinn Féin onslaught.

As pressure continued to grow on the SDLP leader, one unhappy former party councilor in Down District Council who lost his seat on Monday called for Margaret Ritchie to go.

Peter Fitzpatrick, who had been a councilor for 22 years, said the party needed a new leader or it should wind down.

Bad though the outcome was for the SDLP it was even worse for the UUP. Speaking in Belfast City Hall in the wake of the council vote, Basil McCrea, who lost out to Tom Elliott during last year's UUP leadership contest, said, "The writing is on the wall. If we don't deal with this it could lead to the end of the party."