Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Adams still key in west Belfast

Gerry Adams's Midas touch lives on in west Belfast

Gerry Adams may have quit frontline politics in the north but his Midas touch lives on in west Belfast.

There were no surprises in Sinn Fein's hub in the republican quarter of the city, taking back five of the six seats in their most loyal constituency.

His successor Pat Sheehan said it was a historic day with the party delivering a blow to pundits who claimed it could not be sustained for a second term.

Mr Adams arrived in the Kings Hall count centre on Friday to cheers fit for the return of a local hero, but the party's new poll topper Paul Maskey insisted he is not stepping into his place, stressing that Sinn Fein is about community above personality.

The SDLP's Alex Attwood was finally elected to retain his seat in the Assembly on the 10th count. He maintained his vote was rock solid and described rumours of a challenge by the DUP's Brian Kingston as mischief making.

In Belfast South, re-elected MLA Alex Maskey said the transfer of votes from unionist communities to a Sinn Fein politician is the beginning of a new journey in politics in Northern Ireland. "I'm delighted because if you look at all of the transfers, I've got votes from every other party, not only communities," said Mr Maskey.

It was obvious transfers would be shared across the parties after the cross-community Alliance Party scored a major symbolic victory when it topped the poll on Friday night with Anna Lo's re-election in Belfast's King Hall.

While SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell easily secured the second seat, outgoing health minister Michael McGimpsey was left lagging behind from the start. The veteran politician only passed the quota by seven votes after securing transfers from his Ulster Unionist running mate Mark Finlay. Elsewhere Mr Maskey, SDLP's Conall McDevitt and the DUP's Jimmy Spratt were elected without making the quota.

Sinn Fein was left thinking of what might have been in Upper Bann after it came close to seizing a second seat. Early indications pointed to the party wining two at the expense of the UUP or possibly the SDLP. However, the final result showed that the Ulster Unionists were successful in returning two MLAs for the area.

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd was the only candidate to pass the quota of first preference votes to be elected after the first count. As had been expected, both Democratic Unionist candidates, Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson, gained seats late on Friday night after the transfer of votes from eliminated candidates, including two Alliance hopefuls. The final three seats were filled by the SDLP's Dolores Kelly and UUP candidates Jo-Anne Dobson and Sam Gardiner.

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