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New Left profits over the politics of green and orange

By Noel McAdam

Published 07/05/2016

Gerry Carroll hears news he is the first candidate to have been elected in Sinn Fein stronghold of West Belfast
Gerry Carroll hears news he is the first candidate to have been elected in Sinn Fein stronghold of West Belfast

The People Before Profit Alliance - unheard of only a decade ago in both Northern Ireland and the Republic - has achieved an historic breakthrough in the Assembly election.

First, the charismatic Gerry Carroll scored an unprecedented victory at the expense of Sinn Fein in its electoral heartland of West Belfast.

Mr Carroll received more than twice as many as the leading Sinn Fein candidate in the first count, republicans having focused on vote management.

And in Foyle last night veteran socialist campaigner and Belfast Telegraph columnist Eamonn McCann was tantalisingly close to seizing a second seat for the party after edging ahead of independent Anne McCloskey on the sixth count.

In West Belfast Mr Carroll not only took a seat on the first count, but easily topped the poll with 8,229 first preferences - 3,500 votes clear of Sinn Fein's top candidate Alex Maskey, who got 4,769 votes.

Mr Carroll said he believed he had siphoned some support from both Sinn Fein and the SDLP, but had also energised a cohort of first-time voters or people who had sat on their hands during recent elections.

"I think it is a mixture of everything," he said.

"We were on the ground all-year round and people were telling us they were fed up with the status quo.

"I am proud to be a socialist and there is a high level of working-class discontent, with wealth concentrated in the hands of the few."

He will now give up his seat on Belfast City Council, where a co-option is likely.

Mr McCann said: "We were the only party that did not campaign along orange and green lines.

"In fact, we stated that on our People Before Profit party manifesto and all of my canvassers were instructed to repeat the message on the doorsteps during the campaign. This is a vote for the marginalised by the marginalised.

"Regardless of how this turns out, I will continue to campaign on their behalf."

The long-time political activist, author and journalist, who has spent more than 50 years unsuccessfully contesting various elections, added: "I look forward to the day when the politics of the orange and of the green will be dispatched to the dustbins of history, and I regard this as the first step on that road."

Green Party deputy leader Claire Bailey was also running close to a seat in South Belfast late last night after a strong showing of 3,251 first preference votes, hoping to double the party's Assembly representation along with Steven Agnew in North Down.

"I think my vote is coming from people who are tired with the old politics we have had here," she said.

"People are sick and tired of tactical voting - people voting to keep somebody else out."

Belfast Telegraph

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