The Sinn Féin surge continued on Saturday morning when votes were counted for the DEA of Erne North.

No new faces were elected to serve in the Erne North DEA, but the ward was home to a number of political comebacks during this election.

Sinn Féin took home two seats in the ward, with Councillor Debbie Coyle topping the poll, and elected at the first stage with 1,561 votes for a quota of 1,184.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Councillor Coyle said: “Topping the poll is a gain for Sinn Féin and we have been making gains across the Fermanagh and Omagh area, so we are going back in with a very strong team for the people."

She was later joined by running mate John Feeley, who failed to get elected in 2019, and was a sitting councillor from 2014-2019.

Delighted by his return to local politics, Councillor Feeley said: “I’m feeling very happy! It was a long couple of days, but it was a good result for Sinn Féin.

"It means a lot to be back on; we had a hard defeat in 2019 when we ran two candidates, and we ran them again, and it’s the first time Sinn Féin has had two councillors in Erne North.”

Councillor Feeley was the final Sinn Féin candidate elected to Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, helping to form the outright majority of 21 councillors for the party.


Brothers in arms. Anthony Feely, who was re-elected in Erne West congratulates his brother, John Feely following his election in Erne North.

Brothers in arms. Anthony Feely, who was re-elected in Erne West congratulates his brother, John Feely following his election in Erne North.

READ MORE: Fermanagh politicians react to Sinn Féin's election victory


Also returning to the Council Chamber was the DUP’s David Mahon. Councillor Mahon was first elected in 2014 and lost his seat in 2019 to running mate and current DUP MLA Deborah Erskine (née Armstrong).

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Councillor Mahon said: “It has been a long four years, but I am glad to be back.

"We have had some great victories in the count centre – [although] our vote share is down slightly in Erne North.”

He wouldn’t be drawn on the his thoughts on the overall Council make-up, but said: “I will work with whoever is there, and deliver for the people the best I can.”


David Mahon

David Mahon


The UUP’s Diana Armstrong was the second candidate elected. In her acceptance speech, Councillor Armstrong said: “It will certainly not be smooth running at times, but we cannot have one-party dominance of the people of Fermanagh and Omagh.

"The next mandate will be a challenging one, and we will scrutinise decisions where ratepayers' money is being spent to ensure best outcomes for all.”

WATCH: Speeches from Erne North DEA

The final councillor returned was the UUP’s John McClaughry, who faced a tight race for the final seat against the SDLP’s John Coyle.

However, in the end it was the elimination of the TUV’s Alex Elliott that pushed Councillor McClaughry over the line.

In an interview with this newspaper, Councillor McClaughry said he was “relieved” to be re-elected, but expressed concern regarding a low turnout amongst Unionists.

He said: “Across the board, our performance [Unionists'], I feel, was hit by voter apathy.

"We aren’t seeing the numbers coming out to vote. The percentage numbers are remaining the same, and we aren’t seeing Unionists come out to vote, and that is something all the Unionist parties are going to have to address.”

When asked to clarify what he meant by voter apathy, he said: “I think the voters aren’t seeing leadership and direction, and they are saying, ‘Why should we come out and vote?’ and that is very difficult.

"Erne North was traditionally a high turn-out area and now we are down to 62 per cent. When my dad was a councillor in the 1970s and 80s, we sat at 90 per cent turn-outs."