Belfast Telegraph

40 magic number for O'Neill as local voters galvanised

Mid Ulster

By Nevin Farrell

Life begins at 40 they say, and it's a number much in the mind of Michelle O'Neill.

She turned 40 in January and a surge of almost 40% in the Sinn Fein vote in Mid Ulster saw her and party colleagues Ian Milne and Linda Dillon soar towards Stormont. The area posted the biggest voter percentage turnout in Northern Ireland - 73.28% - compared to 58.75% last year.

From the slopes of the Sperrins to the shores of Lough Neagh, 26,477 people voted Sinn Fein, up from 19,015 last May. Mrs O'Neill said: "We fought a very positive campaign and the public have responded well."

Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend said the mobilisation of nationalist voters had helped push her through the exit door. She had been battling with the SDLP's Patsy McGlone for the fifth seat after the lion's share of the unionist electorate backed the DUP's Keith Buchanan.

Mrs Overend later issued a statement saying she was "hugely disappointed".

Mr Buchanan said it had been a bad day for unionism overall in Mid Ulster, but he was happy with his result.

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