Watton storms to stunning victory

PUP man Russell Watton is lifted shoulder high by his supporters after topping the poll in Coleraine. INCR22-501MJ
PUP man Russell Watton is lifted shoulder high by his supporters after topping the poll in Coleraine. INCR22-501MJ

The PUP’s Russell Watton sprung a major surprise when he topped the poll in Coleraine - and became a councillor at the third time of asking.

Watton had unsuccessfully stood twice before as an independent unionist candidate in Coleraine.

He polled 777 votes on the first count but failed to meet the quota of 938 as Coleraine recorded a turnout of 45.73 per cent.

The 60-year-old, who was the first elected in Coleraine DEA, said: “I’m delighted, not only to have been elected, but to have topped the poll.

“About 75 years ago, my late grandfather, Billy Martin, topped the polls in the old Coleraine Urban District Council. He was the first man off the street to be elected.

“I’m delighted to follow in his footsteps as the only successful candidate to come from a housing estate.”

He said he would fight to bring jobs to the area and also support police in combating the drugs threat locally.

It was a stunning and unexpected victory for Watton, who polled just 340 votes in the 2011 election.

SDLP councillor Stephanie Quigley - who replaced her father, veteran trade unionist, Gerry McLaughlin on Coleraine Council earlier this year - weighed in with 721 first preference votes.

The popular mother-of-five - who is married to former Irish League footballer, Nigel Quigley, has already made her mark in local politics by piloting the first ever Street Pastors initiative in the borough.

Congratulated by father Gerry McLaughlin, whose seat she took at Council, Mrs Quigley said: “I’ve been blown away by all the support I’ve received.

“I’m going to continuing doing what I have been so far in Council and give it my all.”

UUP Coleraine mayor, councillor David Harding, along with party colleague Willie McCandless retained their seats as did the DUP’s George Duddy and Trevor Clarke.

Councillor Duddy thanked the voters and his wife and election team.

“In the new Council it will be difficult,” he commented. “We need to be focused on what needs to be done. I have no doubt if we are focused things will improve.”

He expressed disappointed for the his party colleague Tracy Craig who failed to get elected and also the loss of Phyllis Fielding from the chamber.

There was also disappointment the Alliance Party’s Yvonne Boyle who polled 408 votes.