Sinn Féin could become largest party in Northern councils, McDonald says

Sinn Féin Could Become Largest Party In Northern Councils, Mcdonald Says
Mary Lou McDonald said Sinn Féin was aiming to replicate the result at last year’s Assembly election. Photo: PA
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By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Sinn Féin has the opportunity to become the largest party in councils in Northern Ireland in next month’s local government elections, Mary Lou McDonald has said.

The party president said one of the themes in the election would be “frustration” from voters at the continual DUP block on the operation of the powersharing institutions at Stormont.


Nominations will close on Monday for the poll on May 18th, the first electoral test in Northern Ireland since last year’s Assembly election.

A total of 462 council seats are to be filled across 11 council areas.

The DUP is currently the largest party in local government, with 122 seats to 105 for Sinn Féin.

NI Council Elections 2023
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s vice president Michelle O’Neill with colleagues at the Titanic Hotel in Belfast during their local elections campaign launch. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

But as Sinn Féin launched its election campaign on Monday in a Belfast hotel, Mrs McDonald said her party would be running 162 candidates, more than 40 per cent of whom will be women.

She said: “That includes areas in which Sinn Féin has never had an elected representative or indeed a candidate.

“We are very hopeful that we can make a breakthrough in councils that have no or have very little Sinn Féin representation.


“That includes North Down and Ards Council where Noel Sands can make history by taking the first ever Sinn Féin council seat in the Ards peninsula.



“A huge number of our candidates are women, and not just that, but women in winnable seats.

“We have blazed a trail in the Assembly where more than 50 per cent of our representatives are women and we aim in this election to increase the number of female leaders at local government level.”

Mrs McDonald said the party was aiming to replicate the result at last year’s Assembly election where Sinn Féin overtook the DUP for the first time.

She added: “This election provides an opportunity for Sinn Féin to become the largest party in local government for the first time here in the north.”


The Sinn Féin leader referenced the ongoing Stormont stalemate. An executive has not been formed due to a DUP protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.

She said: “I think there is also a sense that the DUP have enjoyed the patience of others for some time now. I think people are fair and people are reasonable, but there is undoubtedly now a frustration at the fact that we still have no government here in the north.

“We have raised before our concern that there would be further drift, so I think one of the big messages in this election campaign coming from people of all political persuasions will be get back to work, the time is now.

“We hope the DUP hears that message.”

NI Council Elections 2023
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said the council elections were an opportunity to send out a signal to the DUP (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said the election was an opportunity to send a signal to the DUP.

She said: “Since day one after the Assembly election, we have been ready to form the Executive and work with others to deliver the real change that people went to the polls and voted for.

“It is unacceptable that one party continues to block the formation of an Executive and stall progress on the important work that needs to be done.

Ministers call on Sinn Féin to provide clarity ove...
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“The election on May 18th is an opportunity to send a clear signal.”

Councils in the North provide a range of services including waste collection and disposal, local planning, street cleaning, sport and leisure services, and parks and open spaces.

The elections on May 18th will use the single transferable vote (STV) system.

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