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North Belfast: Cartoons help raise smiles at drawn out count after Sinn Fein's Kelly tops the poll early

By Deborah McAleese

Published 07/05/2016

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly
Nichola Mallon of the SDLP

After 13 tortuous hours, the person who caused the greatest excitement at the north Belfast count was political cartoonist Bryan John Spencer.

His caricatures of Northern Ireland party leaders generated great amusement throughout the day. A cartoon of Arlene Foster was particularly well received - by the DUP leader herself.

Escorted into Titanic Exhibition Centre by colleagues Nigel Dodds and Emma Little Pengelly, the DUP leader paused and had a chuckle at her portraits.

Her arrival livened up what had become a stale election count.

After Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly topped the poll early in the afternoon, it was a long wait for any other candidate to meet the quota for election.

Kelly was the only person elected at the first stage of the count. He received 5,695 votes in the constituency, where the quota was 5,225.

Following his election Kelly tweeted: "Elected. Big thank you to all activists who worked so hard and to all the voters. I'll have a stronger drink please."

Kelly said he was "very confident" his party colleague Caral Ni Chuilin would retain her seat. Ni Chuilin received 4,009 first preference votes. This was a big improvement on her 2,999 first preference votes in 2011.

"It doesn't seem that there is going to be a change in parties in North Belfast. I think the DUP managed their vote almost perfectly," Kelly said.

With its peace walls and Troubles legacy, North Belfast is a tense constituency. With the marching season already under way, parading is a major issue for the residents of the constituency. Kelly said he was committed to finding a resolution to the contentious issue.

"We want parading resolved. If you look back over last few years it has improved despite the publicity," said Kelly. The DUP's Nelson McCausland, who took second place in the 2011 elections, said he also wanted the parading issue resolved.

"North Belfast doesn't benefit from it. We need to create a shared society.

"We have always wanted a resolution. Unfortunately elements in Ardoyne are so extreme they are only interested in confrontation," he said.

Mr McCausland, who pulled in 4,087 first preference votes, said he was confident that the DUP would retain three seats.

"We have managed the vote well and are very hopeful the three DUP candidates will be returned. It will be a good result for the party.

"It is recognition of the hard work done in the constituency over the past five years," he added.

McCausland and his party colleagues Paula Bradley and William Humphrey were in good positions last night, all with more than 4,000 first preference votes.

The UUP's Rev Lesley Carroll was disappointed by his 1,972 first preference votes as he had hoped to regain the seat narrowly lost in 2011 by Fred Cobain.

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon was looking to be in a strong position to retain her seat last night after she secured 3,866 first preference votes.

Ms Mallon was co-opted to replace veteran SDLP man Alban Maginness who retired from the Assembly in January.

Belfast Telegraph

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