The DUP’s Gary Middleton, who was co-opted onto Derry City Council at the age of just 20 back in 2010, romped home (1,077) on the first count in the inaugural Faughan District Electoral Area (DEA), trailed only by his running mate Maurice Devenney who received 936 first preferences.
The two sitting Derry City Councillors - if anything - benefitted from the inclusion of Bready and Magheramason in the new electoral district and didn’t suffer any ill effects from the reduction in the size of the electorate compared with the old Rural area.
Mr Middleton said: “It’s an absolute honour to stand here as a DUP councillor. To top the poll was extra special.
“The most important thing is that we returned our two candidates for the DUP in Faughan. We’ll be strong.”
Mr Devenney - had only to await the elimination of UKIP’s Geoff Cruickshank (185 first preferences) and Alliance’s David Hawthorne (336 first count tally) - to be elected.
He said: “I want to congratulate my colleague, Gary Middleton, who fought a very good campaign for the DUP here in Londonderry, and we have proven we have a track record here in Londonderry, working for the people and now looking forward to working for the people within the new Strabane area.”
The reduction of the DEA from a six seater to a five seater meant there was a guaranteed loser in Faughan, however, it became clear early on on Saturday that the loser was going to come from among the three SDLP candidates - all of whom were virtually indivisible on the first count: Jim McKeever (493), Gus Hastings (492) and Brenda Stevenson (490).
There was the remote possibility UUP candidate Ronnie McKeegan could make a contest of the last seat and inflict further misery on the nationalist party but the meagre surpluses of Mr Middleton, Mr Devenney and Mr Cruickshank were never enough to put him in real contention given the inevitable filtering down of the SDLP transfers.
When Mrs Stevenson was eliminated at stage 7 with a final tally of 550 her transfers allowed Mr Hastings to leapfrog Mr McKeegan and go on to take the fifth and final seat comfortably.
Prior to that Paul Fleming of Sinn Féin had received 895 first preferences and was elected following the elimination of his running mate and newcomer, Michael McCrossan at stage four. Mr McCrossan had received 358 first preference votes and bowed out with 365.
Independent Paul Hughes attracted 576 first preferences - bettering each of the three SDLP candidates - but few transfers and couldn’t make the headlines his fellow independents had elsewhere across Derry and Strabane.
First preferences First Count
The DUP’s Gary Middleton was the top polling candidate (1,077) and breached the quota of 1,054, closely followed by running mate Maurice Devenney (936).
Sinn Féin’s Paul Fleming polled 895, followed by Ronnie McKeegan (555), Paul Hughes (501), Jim McKeever (493), Gus Hastings (492), Brenda Stevenson (490), Michael McCrossan (358), David Hawthorne (336) and Geoff Cruickshank (185).
A subplot to the Faughan DEA was the failure by Mrs Stevenson - a niece of John Hume - to get elected.
Mrs Stevenson amassed just 550 votes by the time of her elimination and was still trailing, not only her running mates, Mr McKeever and Mr Hastings, but independent newcomer Mr Hughes.