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Furious Nigel Dodds blasts Sinn Fein for 'dirty' battle

By Deborah McAleese

Published 09/05/2015

Nigel Dodds and Gerry Kelly at the King’s Hall in Belfast after the DUP man was elected in North Belfast
Nigel Dodds and Gerry Kelly at the King’s Hall in Belfast after the DUP man was elected in North Belfast

Gerry Kelly accepted his pantomime villain role with relish.

He merrily batted off theatrical jeers, boos and hisses from Nigel Dodds' enthusiastic supporters as they celebrated the biggest vote in history for the DUP in North Belfast.

Dodds secured 47% of votes, with 19,096 - over 4,000 more than in the 2010 parliamentary elections - returning him to Westminster for a fourth time.

Kelly saw his vote increase by over 1,000, but this failed to stem a widening gap between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The Sinn Fein candidate secured 13,770 (34%). This was 5,326 votes behind the DUP. In 2010 the gap was 2,224.

If Kelly was annoyed by defeat he didn't show it. He laughed heartily at an eruption of cheers from the DUP camp as Dodds accused Sinn Fein of "dirty tricks and deceitful actions".

Earlier in the night Kelly posed for smiling selfies with Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald - accidentally holding the mobile phone the wrong way around.

In contrast, Dodds was not in the mood for humour. In fact, as he made his victory speech he appeared furious. Referring to a letter purporting to be from the mother of a disabled child, posted to hundreds of homes in unionist areas of the constituency this week, Dodds accused Sinn Fein of "dirty tricks and deceitful actions".

The letter claimed Dodds refused to meet the parents of a boy with cerebral palsy. The claims were particularly painful as Dodds and his wife Diane had a son, Andrew, with spina bifida. Andrew died at just eight years old. Sinn Fein denied responsibility for the letter.

"This has been one of the nastiest campaigns I have been involved in," the DUP MP said. He added that the fact the DUP had just secured its biggest ever vote proved "there's a strong unionist majority in North Belfast".

He said his vote proved that "truth will triumph over lies" and that the DUP had "exposed the sectarianism of Sinn Fein."

"As far as the national picture is concerned, the DUP goes into Westminster on a position of strength," he added.

In response to Dodds' victory speech, Kelly quipped: "I'd like to thank Nigel Dodds for his very gracious acceptance speech and his supporters for making me feel at home." He later said the DUP had "a brass neck" to call anyone sectarian.

Alban Maginness, who saw his vote fall by more than 1,000 from the 2010 elections to 3,338, accused Sinn Fein and the DUP of having run a "sectarian dog fight" in North Belfast.

North Belfast has many nationalist and unionist enclaves like Ardoyne, New Lodge, Tigers Bay and Glenbryn. Sectarian polarisation appears to have been played out in this election.

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