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Gregory Campbell back with ease but turnout continues to drop

By Donna Deeney

Published 09/05/2015

Gregory Campbell said his win was part of a wider rise in support for the DUP
Gregory Campbell said his win was part of a wider rise in support for the DUP

The return of Gregory Campbell as MP for East Londonderry was the least surprising result announced seven-and-a-half hours after the polling stations closed.

Mr Campbell has been the sitting MP for this constituency since 2001 when he took the seat from the Ulster Unionist William Ross.

While Mr Campbell's vote and majority was up, the turnout in this constituency was one of the lowest across Northern Ireland, with just 52.24% of the 66,925 eligible voters bothering to go to their polling station.

The number of votes cast has decline steadily as each election passes in this constituency, in 2010 the turnout was 55.3% - a drop of more than 8% from 2005 elections.

The turnout could be credited to voter apathy, with the election generally or the assumption that Mr Campbell is so secure in this constituency it is not worth the voter's effort to exercise the right to vote.

Whatever the reason, it must be of some concern to all that next time around the turnout in East Londonderry could drop below 50%.

But into the small hours of the morning, just after 4.30am the returning MP, Mr Campbell, was cryptic in his recollection of the campaign, saying the election was fought by "most of the candidates, cleanly and fairly" before thanking "most of the candidates for doing that".

Unnamed others, which included "many in the media", also came in for some criticism for doing "their worst" to "denigrate this party and this candidate" which was not elaborated upon by Mr Campbell.

Instead, he pointed to the way the final tally fell when defining a "successful candidate", saying: "Did they get more votes than anyone? We did. Did they get a bigger majority than they did the last time? We did.

"Did they get a bigger percentage share of the vote than the last time. We did.

"On every count, in every category, this party is on the way up.

"Others may be on the way down but we are on the way up in East Londonderry, in this part of the United Kingdom."

The constituency boundaries of East Londonderry have undergone a few changes over the years, with the loss of Magherafelt in 1995 to the most recent revision in 2010 when Banagher and Claudy were included.

This has benefited Sinn Fein who once again polled the second highest number of votes.

The party's candidate, Caoimhe Archibald, secured 6,859 votes, which is an increase of 117 on the the 2010 results.

The biggest loser of the night was perhaps the SDLP's Gerry Mullan who would not have been happy with the drop in the party's vote, from 5,339 in 2010 to 4,268

The Ulster Unionist Party will take no pleasure in its candidate's performance either, which fell by 885 from 2010 when the party fielded a candidate jointly with the NI Conservatives.

Alliance saw its vote increase to its best ever, securing 2,642, while the NI Conservatives polled 422, even fewer than the Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol candidate, who convinced 527 people of his party's campaign.

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