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Foyle win: Vote rise sees Mark Durkan all emotional

By Donna Deeney

Published 09/05/2015

Mark Durkan shares a kiss with wife Jacqui after topping the poll in Foyle
Mark Durkan shares a kiss with wife Jacqui after topping the poll in Foyle

The Foyle constituency win for Mark Durkan was predictable - but even the party could not have foreseen such a handsome increase in his vote.

The SDLP candidate polled 17,725 this time around, almost 1,000 up from the 2010 election.

Stepping up to the podium to make his acceptance speech, the former SDLP leader's voice betrayed his emotions.

The SDLP's jubilant mood was polar opposite to the despondent Sinn Fein, who must have felt crushed by the performance of Gearoid O hEara who polled 11,679, down from the 12,098 secured by Martina Anderson who represented the party in 2010.

The first boxes arrived at the count centre less than 15 minutes after the poll closed and it was just after 1.30am when the result was declared.

While the talk during the campaign was of 'kingmakers' and deals amongst various parties in Westminster, Mr Durkan, after thanking his campaign team, remained adamant he would not move from his stance of no deal.

"We will not do any deal that will prop up a Conservative Government or to support them in austerity budgets, unlike the DUP who supported parts of their austerity budgets," Mr Durkan said.

"We have said we will always use our seats on a vote by vote, seat by seat basis.

"In relation to any issue we will not be tied, even to Labour."

What must have disappointed all of the candidates was the turnout which, at 53.58%, is the lowest since the constituency was formed in 1983 and a far cry from the heady days of the 1980s and 1990s elections when the turnout averaged around 70%.

Gary Middleton stepped in to replace Maurice Devenney for the DUP this time around and held up the party's share, even managing a small increase, going from 4,489 to 4,573.

Clearly delighted with his performance, Mr Middleton, who is also the DUP's representative in the Assembly for Foyle, said it was "not bad for a 24-year-old".

The Ulster Unionist Party saw its vote increase slightly, as did the Alliance Party, but neither Julie Kee for the UUP or David Hawthorn for Alliance made much of a dent on the overall tally.

Standing in the Westminster election in Foyle for the first time, Ukip's Kyle Thompson polled 832 votes and a first-time candidate for the Northern Ireland Conservatives, Hamish Badenoch, managed to impress just 132 voters enough for them to put their X against his name.

In the end the fear of disruption from dissident republicans that hung over the count for Foyle and East Londonderry - which also took place at Templemore Sports Complex - was unfounded.

PSNI inspector Terry McKenna said: "The bombs at the Probation Board office in Crawford Square and at the TA base in the Waterside, coupled with the attacks on members of Sinn Fein, was the dissident republicans' attempt to disrupt the election process and make people feel unsafe in the run-up to voting."

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