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NI Election: Little Pengelly blames DUP leaflet confusion for losing seat

By Jonny Bell

Ousted MLA Emma Little Pengelly blamed voter confusion for her failure to retain a second DUP seat in South Belfast.

She said leaflets advising voters that first preferences should go to her running mate were distributed in the wrong areas.

Leaflets for Mr Stalford, she claimed, were handed out in areas where the DUP message should have been to vote for Ms Little Pengelly as first preference.

She said at one polling station one person handed out leaflets and "misinformation" for "many hours".

Former special adviser Little Pengelly also hinted she may run again to retake her seat.

In a Facebook post on Sunday morning, the barrister thanked those who turned out to vote.

She said: "I apologise to the voters in Stranmillis PS where Stalford 1 leaflets were handed out for many hours during election day and misinformation given out. Unfortunately this person would not leave.

"This should not have happened and there should not have been that confusion to you, the DUP voters.

"I can assure you I have raised it with the party.

"In an election where 25 votes separated Christopher and me, this confusion was unacceptable."

Mrs Little Pengelly added: "We fought a hard campaign and the DUP vote rose to 9,000 in this election.

"The DUP was once again the biggest party in South Belfast. This time around I lost Nettlefield PS as recommended No1 Little Pengelly (in order to try and ensure both DUP candidates got a similar first preference vote to give us the best chance of 2 seats), despite this my first preference vote equalled last year's."

Asked if he was party to the leaflets being handed out, Mr Stalford said he had no comment to make on that matter.

He added: "I have been on the receiving end of an Assembly election defeat and I know how sore it is.

"There is always the temptation to look for blame and think it is unfortunate we did not get two seats and I wish we had.

"I wish Emma all the very best for the future."

Asked again if he played any role in his leaflets being distributed, he said: "These accusations have been made two days after the vote and after the heat of a campaign battle and I have no further comment to make."

During the campaign Mrs Little Pengelly's civil servant husband, the Department of Health head Richard Pengelly, hit the headlines amid controversy after an email was leaked in which he expressed concern over overtly political tweets by health staff.

He cited two from doctors which were critical of the DUP and Sinn Fein in his email.

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