Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Sinn Fein retain west Belfast seat

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams resigned his seat to run as a member of the Irish parliament, the Dail

A record low turnout for a Northern Ireland Westminster by-election was witnessed in west Belfast as Sinn Fein comfortably retained the seat vacated by Gerry Adams.

Sitting Assembly Member Paul Maskey topped the poll by more than 13,000 votes but the 37.53% turnout was the lowest percentage since partition in 1921.

Voter apathy was feared in a contest many viewed as a foregone conclusion and which represented the fourth major election in the constituency in four years.

But Mr Maskey, celebrating his victory on his 44th birthday, focused on the positives as he thanked the 16,211 who did vote for him.

"I am delighted to be elected by the people, they have endorsed Sinn Fein yet again for their Westminster seat," he said.

The full turnout was 37.53%, which drops to 37.35% when spoiled votes are excluded. The previous record low was 38.75% at Down North in 1995.

The election was called after Sinn Fein party president Mr Adams resigned his seat to run as a member of the Irish parliament, the Dail. He was elected as a TD for Louth in the Republic's general election in February as the party tried to affirm its all-Ireland credentials.

It would have been a seismic political upset if Mr Maskey had failed to hold on to the seat situated in Belfast's republican heartland. It was considered the safest seat in Northern Ireland, and the fourth safest in the UK.

SDLP Environment Minister at Stormont Alex Attwood, who is also an MLA for the area, came in a distant second with 3,088 votes. Gerry Carroll representing People Before Profit notched 1,751.

Democratic Unionist Brian Kingston polled 1,393 and Bill Manwaring for the Ulster Unionists garnered a disappointing 386. The Alliance Party's candidate Aaron McIntyre received 122 votes.

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