East Antrim election candidates announced

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Political parties are largely maintaining the status quo in East Antrim as they announce their candidates for the Assembly election.

The Alliance Party will once again field outgoing MLA Stewart Dickson as well as Danny Donnelly, who failed to secure a seat in 2016.

While Mr Dickson was elected on the tenth count with 3,115 first preference votes, equivalent to 9.6 per cent, Mr Donnelly was eliminated on the ninth count after securing 1,632 or five per cent of the first preference votes.

Sinn Fein is backing outgoing MLA Oliver McMullan, who was returned on the twelfth count in 2016 after clinching 2,633 first preference votes, equivalent to 8.1 per cent.

The TUV is once again pinning its East Antrim hopes on Mid and East Antrim Councillor Ruth Wilson, who was eliminated at the seventh stage of the count last year having secured 1,643 votes or 5.1 per cent of first preferences overall.

The DUP line-up will see a change, with Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Stephen Ross parachuted in to replace Alistair Ross.

He will join outgoing MLAs Gordon Lyons and David Hilditch on the party ticket for East Antrim.

It is the first time that Cllr Ross has made a bid to represent the DUP at Assembly level.

Last May, Mr Hilditch topped the poll in East Antrim and was deemed elected at the first stage of the count after taking 5,906 or 18.2 per cent of first preference votes.

Meanwhile, Mr Lyons was elected on the eighth count with 3472 first preference votes, equivalent to 10.7 per cent.

As for the SDLP, they have once again selected Councillor Margaret Anne McKillop as their East Antrim candidate.

Last year, she achieved 1,229 first preference votes, equivalent to 3.8 per cent, and was eliminated at the sixth stage of counting.

The UUP are backing outgoing MLA Roy Beggs to retain his seat, and he will be joined on the party ticket by Cllr John Stewart, who currently sits on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. In May, Mr Beggs was elected at the eighth stage of the count with 3,848 first preference votes or 11.9 per cent. Cllr Stewart was eliminated at the eleventh stage of the count, having garnered 1,985 votes or 6.1 per cent of first preferences.

Alan Dunlop will stand for NI Conservatives in East Antrim, while Dawn Patterson, who was eliminated at the fifth stage of the count with 693 first preference votes last year, or 2.1 per cent, will carry the hopes of the Green Party.

Conor Sheridan, who was eliminated at the third stage of the count with 551 first preference votes, or 1.7 per cent, in 2016, will represent Cross Community Labour Alternative.

Footnote: No other parties had declared candidates at the time of going to press.